Last Jewish history museum survives in Albania

The only Jewish history museum in Albania got new life in Berat thanks to a generous businessman.

The Solomon Museum was opened by a local professor, Simon Vrusho, in 2018 to tell the story of how Muslims and Christians in the country helped save hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust.

The museum was funded by small donations left in a box by the door and Vrusho’s personal pension. When the professor died, no one was sure what would happen to the museum.

After an AFP report came out about the possible closing of the museum, French-Albanian businessman Gazmend Toska decided not only to finance the museum but also to move it to bigger property in the city.

“It was deeply moving to see the response to AFP’s coverage of this museum,” Toska told a crowd at the re-opening ceremony.

Vrusho was an Orthodox Christian who spent years collecting documents, photos and memories to bear witness to the Jewish community in Berat that arrived in the 16th century from Spain.

The museum brings to light stories of Muslims and Christians that helped save and hide Jews from Nazis. Thanks to these people, the Jewish population in Albania actually increased during the years of World War II.

The Solomon Museum is “a tree of memory watered with the love of all those who have contributed to its survival,” said Vrusho’s widow Angjlina, 65, the museum’s new director.

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