Don’t forget Muslims who saved Jews’ lives

You may have already attended a Yom HaShoah service this week, to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews consumed in the Holocaust.
At the same time we should also remember and give praise to those righteous non-Jews who, at the risk of their lives, hid and protected Jews in their midst who would have otherwise been lost to the Nazis.
Some of you may be surprised to learn that besides Christians, there were many Muslims who also were among the “righteous,” hiding and protecting hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Jews from the Nazis.
Albania, the largest Muslim-populated country in Europe, was also the only nation occupied by the Germans and Italians that refused to provide the names of its Jews.
A tradition long held by Albanians is Besa, a belief in care and concern. In World War II, it meant taking care of its Jews. Its Christian and Muslim citizens absorbed 2,000 Jews into their homes and workplaces, giving them Albanian names and making them part of their families. Amazingly, not one Jew was lost to the Nazis in Albania.
Another Muslim country whose citizens helped save Jews from the clutches of the Nazis was Iran.
An Iranian diplomat, Abdol-Hossein Sardari, chief consul in Paris, France when the Nazis marched in, convinced the occupiers that Iranians were Aryans, including its Jewish citizens, who were “unlike European Jews” and therefore should not be included in the roundup.
Iran had declared its neutrality and Hitler sought trade favors with the shah, so the Iranian consul was able to save not only Iranian Jews, but many European Jews to whom he illegally issued Iranian passports.
The stories of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg saving so many Jewish lives have been well publicized, yet the heroism of Consul Sardari, an Iranian Muslim who probably saved even more Jews than Schindler, needs to be honored as well.
While many individual Muslims are honored by Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations, too few American Jews realize this fact.
Now, at a time when American Muslims are under scrutiny and suspicion by the ignorant who are suspicious of all Muslims, we as Jews should stand with them as they stood with us not that many years ago.

Leave a Reply