7 Chapter 1
Skanderbeg - The Albanian Hero
Skanderbeg in Albania means " A Warrior King of Albania. A Protector and Nationalist. A national hero of Albania". It has become a myth for generations It was made a underground resistance in memory of its heroic origin. The name Skanderbeg was even used by the invading German SS Division Skanderbeg in Tirana, Albania.
Skanderbeg is the title of an Albanian hero, George Kastrioti, or Castriota, Albanian Gjergj Kastrioti (born 1405, northern Albania—died Jan. 17, 1468, Lezhë, Albania). His name, Iskander was given to him by Sultan Murad II after Alexander the Great with the rank of bey (hence Skanderbeg).
Skanderbeg is sometimes called the Dragon of Albania. His father, Gjon Kastrioti, lord of middle Albania, and his mother Vojsava was from Macedonia. Gjon was a resistance leader who fought the invading Ottomans but eventually submitted and honored Sultan Bayezid I. Gjergj (or Georg) , like his father Gjon were taken hostages by Ottomans to the Sultans court and converted Georg into Islam to assure Gjon's loyalty to the Sultans.
George Kastrioti studied at the military school in Edirne, Turkey. During his campaign against the Hungarians, Skanderbeg took Kruje Castle and declared war against the Ottomans wielding his flag bearing the double-headed eagle which had long been used as the symbol in the Albanian flag and in the Balkans as well. Skanderbeg over powered the large army of the Ottoman empire led by Ali Pasha in 1444 and succeeded by two more victories over Moker in 1445 and Oranik in 1447. Thinking that the Ottomans would be able to siege Kruje Castle in 1450, a hundred thousand soldiers were sent just to be held back by the rapidly spreading disease which forced them to retreat and abandon the planned siege before the advent of winter season.
Venice is significant in the history of Albania that at the beginning of the Albanian upheaval, Skanderbeg was supported by Venice. Skanderbeg's forces were recognized to be a support force between Venice and the Ottoman empire. However, Skanderbeg's rise to power on the borders saddened Venice and considered him as a threat to their interests. Hence, their relations worsened and the dispute over the fortress of Dagnum triggered war between Albania and Venice in 1447-1448.
The Venetians even offered rewards to anyone who could assassinate Skanderbeg and sought every means to overthrow him. The Ottomans were even invited to stage a pre-meditative attack on Skanderbeg simultaneously pushing Albania to a double-conflict with the Ottomans and Venice from the East. However, Skanderbeg was so powerful that he defeated the Ottomans led by Pasha and the Venetian forces in which the latter offered a peace treaty. The Ottomans did not give up taking Kruje Castle, but this time by attacking Albania from all sides, thus severing all supply lines and reducing Skanderbeg's strength of mobility.
Skanderbeg abandoned the Turkish service during the defeat of the Turks at Nis, in Serbia in 1443 and joined his fellowmen in Albania against the Islam forces. He successfully repulsed almost 13 Turkish invasions in 1444 -1466 and likewise, in 1450 he victoriously fought the army of Murad II, thus, making him a hero throughout the Western world. And yet, the Ottomans were defeated but at that time Skanderbeg was stricken by malaria and died without seeing the triumph over the Ottomans.
Had it not for Skanderbeg's ability, the Albanian resistance would not have had lasted another 10 years until its fall into the Ottoman Empire in 1478, henceforth the resistance's legacy became part of the dominant empire until 1912. Skanderbeg embraced Christianity and formed a league of Albanian princes in which he was appointed leader. He obtained support from Naples, Venice and was named by Pope Calixtus III, Captain-General of the Holy See.
The Advent Of World War II
It was said that World War II was the bloodiest conflict that the world has ever experienced with a death toll of more than 50 million and it was said to be a sequel of World War I after an unsettled conflict left behind 20 years later. The conflict virtually involved many parts of the world during the years 1939-1945 between the Allies- France, Great Britain, US, USSR, and Axis powers - Germany, Italy, and Japan.
In the advent of the German dictatorship of Adolf Hitler in 1939, the latter's aspirations to extend his sovereignty over Poland was his initial ambitious scheme that would be carried out by force but first thought of neutralizing the possibility of hostile reaction by the Soviet Union being the nearest of its neighbor that would pause a great threat to him. Germany and the Soviet Union negotiated and resulted in the signing of the Non-Aggression Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union in Moscow. However, a secret protocol of the Pact disclosed the partition of Poland between them in the event of any possibilities. Likewise, Hitler's action could be hampered by the Munich Pact that guaranteed military support from France and Britain in the event Poland was attacked. The story continued.
On the other side of the coin was Asia. Japan, an Axis ally of Germany aspired to conquer the entire Asian continent by launching its first leg of invasion against China in 1937. Hence, war in Europe sparked and spread like a wild fire. As German occupation continued engulfing the European continent with atrocities, so were the resistance forces began to be organized in many localities of the states to defend their lives with dignity and sovereignty.
The Resistance Movement
An organized group of socialist-elite soldiers from Albania called Skanderbeg which had been operating in France at the outbreak of war was mobilized and dispersed in strategic locations to monitor and weaken the German defense against France and ultimately assassinate Hitler and his key officers. Some of these socialist soldiers consisted of Jewish-Albanians who had been spying the German forces since its entry to France. Their German was good as well as their English. Consequently, Hitler's high military command was undeniably composed of half-Jewish-German military- Generals, Colonels, Majors and Captains .
Some of them could hardly bear the atrocities the Waffen SS did to the Jews when they enforced Hitler's Final Solution - the Holocaust. But it was all dictated by the Fuhrer to carry out with which they had to live on, otherwise, they would have their lives sacrificed for sympathizing with the Jews. And yet, for the sake of humanity the resistance had to perform a noble mission in exchange for their lives than to live in shameless victory with an evil dictator.
Somewhere in Berlin, Germany, a clandestine resistance movement within the Nazi military and other government departments had cropped up to formation and collaboration involving Jewish militants against Hitler's Final Solution and Holocaust. The movement was organized and led by couple Erzen and Jora Kelmendi, both Jewish-Albanians and educated in Germany to become ace pilots before the outbreak of war. In the advent of forming a resistance movement, they had learned and committed to pact of life and death; and whatever happened to everyone in their respective regional mission, be it successful or failure, everyone should struggle to escape to Czechoslovakia for a group gathering to join a mother resistance group that would liberate the country or weaken the German forces by assassinating or eradicating Hitler's top officers. From Czechoslovakia, they would proceed and settle to their mother land, Albania. Their main objective was to merge with a dominant resistance movement to liberate the nation from Italy and fight the invading forces of Hitler. Albania could be the country where Jewish persecution was not that brutal than in Poland, Croatia, Yugoslavia and other European states that were occupied by Germany. Likewise, they could start a new life when Albania was already liberated from invaders.
Erzen was Major and Jora was Captain in their early thirtees(30's). With them were a number of Jewish-Albanians working in the Nazi Party such as Sander Bogdini, a former Petty Officer of the German Navy who migrated to France and went back to Germany to join the navy in the early 20's , he later became Navy Commander. German Army Captain Qamil Leka, who had been collaborating with Nazi SS Officers in Vichy when Marshall Petain flaunted his allegiance to Hitler although France was still at war against Germany. Qamil's parents were both Albanian-Jews who migrated to Germany when he was a young boy. Qamil Leka decided to go back to Germany to resume his assignment under the German military High Command for an isolated mission upon learning the organized movement to defend the Jewish people from persecution .
Aaron Dewishi, German-Jewish Army Major assigned in the armory of the German military command to strategic European regions where German military was launching military offensive. Aaron's father was Albanian-Jew and his mother was German-Jew who settled in Germany where Aaron was born. Ariel Schrobber, an Albanian-German-Jewish SS member who was unfortunate to be identified by a racist-regional commander as having both Jewish parents and as a result got dismissed from service. His Father was Albanian-Jew and his mother German-Jew.
However, he was fortunate enough to be given a chance to survive the execution. Samron Frasheri, Albanian-Jew, whose parents migrated and settled in Germany. Frasheri was born in Albania and returned to Germany when his parents were already old. He studied at the German military school and served the Armed forces after his studies. German military Adjutant Samron Frasheri was promoted to the rank of Colonel when Hitler invaded France where the former was instrumental in cracking down oil reserves at the French oil depot for refueling German Panzer tanks.
In appreciation of Frasheri's performance, he was commended by his immediate superior for rank promotion. However, he was supposed to abandon his position when he learned that all Jewish soldiers were to be dismissed from the service and suffered the consequence of being a Jew. But, later realized that the incident was regional and that servicemen could find an option to leave, however, if they were found guilty of collaboration and treason they would be executed on sight. To help save millions of Jews from racism and persecution, he decided to join the movement. Frasheri was clandestinely passing highly classified and collaborative information to the group .
Deep within them was animosity to Hitler's policy of Final Solution and Holocaust to the millions of Jews confined and murdered in the concentration camps in Auschwitz, Poland and Jasenovac, Croatia. Major Wilhelm Schellnetz, an Albanian-German-Jew whose parents were expelled from German government service when they were suspected of collaborating with the Jewish militant organization. Likewise, General Guxim Dosier a German-Jew with both German-Jewish parents, studied at the German military school and served its Armed Forces after graduation. Dosier who had compassion with the Jews was closely working at Nazi-German Military Headquarters where he was handling vital documents and other confidential information about Hitler and the Nazi Military Affairs. By clandestine messages and undercover network, they were able to communicate and formed collaborative organization to work for a common goal. Some even worked in other German Offices.
Racism and Anti-Semitism Under Nazi Germany
Racism or the so-called anti-Semitism intensified and became even more highlighted during the Third Reich as Hitler denounced inferior races other than the Aryan which he considered as a master race. Hitler was aware that there were several German-Nazi officers and Waffen SS in his army and he could hot deny the fact that some of best and valuable officers were half Jews. General Erhard Milch an aviator during peacetime was commissioned in the German Air Force and a deputy of General Herman Goering as chief of the Luftwaffe(air force) . However, Hitler might be caught or suspended with this issue by just sighing, " I will tell you and decide who is a Jew ."
In fact, there were around 15 or more Jewish-Generals and a hundred thousand soldiers comprising the Nazi military and at least 20soldiers were awarded the Knight's Cross, the highest German decoration given to the Jewish soldiers Some Jews in the German military practiced their religion during the war. However, when a decree against the Jews for the Final Solution was proclaimed upon the invasion of Poland even the German soldiers of Jewish descent serving in the army were discharged from the service and would have to run for their lives or escape somewhere to survive and evade persecution.
A former Jewish soldier, named Ariel Schrobber was dismissed in from the eastern front of the German military command before the Poland invasion in 1939 . Upon tracing from a document gathered by a Gestapo, he was identified by the race researcher as a direct Jewish descendant of both Jewish parents.. Gestapo, a secret police of the Nazi Germany and the most elite police-detective with keen legal knowledge and skills in sleuthing was the most nasty among the Nazi service unit.
To give him a chance he was exiled in a remote area in Poland where he had to survive the rigors of life among the Jews. He found himself walking in the ruins of a certain town in Poland where he had to deal with strangers whom he did not know whether Nazi collaborators or common people.
" I know who you were and who you are now " sighed a mustached man who looked like in his late 40's.
" How?" he asked.
" Your dusty coat with faded buttons less your name plate."
" Some more ?"
" You're a Jew "
" Are you going to shoot me? He asked.
" Oh no. Don't worry. Me and my friends are Christians and we don't care about your religion. This is war… " The man invited Ariel inside the ruins where there were around six armed-men. The man introduced himself as Aaron. They gave him a loaf of bread
" What have you been doing here ?" Ariel asked
" We're resistance members and we've been fighting the invaders since then. Some of my men were killed by the strong German forces. Panzers have left this place in ruins. "
" Where do you think you're going now?" Aaron added.
"I am confused," Ariel replied
" Will you still fight for the Nazi ?" Aaron asked.
Aaron's glaring eyes were so inviting to mean joining his group.
" Think about it?" he added.
" I have nowhere to go. How can I help?" Ariel asked
" You're a big help for us" Aaron delightedly replied.
" While your German is good I will give you a challenging mission." Aaron said.
The following morning they fixed themselves and started to tread their way out of the ruined towns trying to avoid inimical elements while vigilant of the threat of the SS soldiers but most particularly the vicious eyes of the Gestapo.
" What have you got there?" Aaron asked.
" My identity documents" he replied as he put out his folded documents.
" Can I use these ?" he asked.
" Yes. Our German contact is a Jewish Maj. Wilhelm Schellnetz in Krakow. He will take care of everything. Take money for the ticket" Aaron asked.
They hid and left their weapons along their way when approaching the railway station where a number of SS soldiers were patrolling the vicinity while they kept an eye to men in coat and gentle hat, the Gestapo. They began to disperse and walk in separate ways in the station after securing each own ticket.
" Where are you heading ?" The ticketing Officer asked.
" Krakow." Ariel replied.
A man in gray coat slowly approached him as he sensed it was a Gestapo. He spoke in German and asked to see his documents ( in English)
"So, you're a dismissed soldier and waiting for your fate" he asked sarcastically.
" Yes. And I am heading to steel plant in Krakow to make myself productive."
While the Gestapo was interrogating Ariel, Aaron approached them
" And whose authority is sending you to Krakow to work there?" he continued.
" Excuse me, Sir. That gentleman is assigned to work in Krakow since he is a former SS soldier. He is given a chance to work and live by the German military command in Germany." Aaron said.
" And who are you to interrupt my job?" he asked and stared sharply at Aaron.
But Aaron was firm and continued to explain to convince the police. He knew that Gestapo was so keen and smart to know the rules.
" Do you have any identity papers?" the Gestapo asked.
Aaron showed his legal identity documents while the Gestapo keenly read and evaluated its contents. The Gestapo paused for a while as he looked straight to the eyes of Aaron with doubt and skepticism.
"I am the emissary from Krakow who will assist him to get there. Sir, it will be clear and highly appreciated if you will allow me to call the military detachment in Krakow and let you talk with the Deputy commander." Aaron asked.
" You're challenging me to hear the truth. Then, proceed." He asked as he handed back the documents to him. Aaron folded and quickly kept it inside his coat.
Aaron stepped forward to the telefon corner that was approximately five steps away from where they were standing. In a few minutes he was able to contact Major Wilhelm Schellnetz, the deputy commander while the Gestapo continued his irritating inquisitiveness to Ariel about his documents. Aaron called his attention and got the phone and began talking with Schellnetz. Aaron approached Ariel and waited for the Gestapo. After a while the Gestapo handed down the telefon and approached them.
" Alright, you win this time. But don't be so sure of yourselves. You may go." He said.
The two left him without a word when the train was seen approaching. Not so far were their members about to ride the train who were steps away from the SS soldiers. They made it to the train and moved cautiously in the presence of Nazi inspectors whose arms were strapped with swastika emblem. They had to stop in subsequent German check points for inspection and if necessary they had to get off for refreshment at the station's coffee shop.