On the Fringes with Elizabeth Stewart

Blissfully above the fray
Watching scenes of migrants camped out in Calais reminded me of an inspiring lecture given by Albanian Ambassador Mal Berisha at the US Embassy.

It was on the life of Hermann Bernstein, the Jewish Lithuanian-born US Ambassador to Tirana in the run-up to WWII, who persuaded Albania’s King Zog to create a safe haven for Jews in the early 1930s as they faced persecution across Europe.

King Zog duly instructed all Albanian Consular Missions in Europe to grant visas to any Jews fleeing persecution.

As a consequence Albania, with its majority Muslim population, is the only country in Europe whose Jewish population increased during WWII.

Ambassador Berisha referred to the testimonies of exhausted Jewish refugees, who went from consulate to consulate all over Europe, finally to be granted a lifesaving visa by Albanian consuls.

And because of the noble Albanian tradition of Besa – offering hospitality to a stranger in need – Albanians risked their lives to offer shelter to these refugees.

So when EU diplomats sit around the negotiating table to figure out how to solve the migrant crisis, remember Hermann Bernstein and the Albanians. We would do well to follow their example.