Besa (Albanian culture)
Besa is an Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

n cultural precept
A precept is a commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action.-Christianity:The term is encountered frequently in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures; e.g.:...

, usually translated as "faith", that means "to keep the promise" and "word of honor". The word's origin can be traced to the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini
Lekë Dukagjini
Lekë III Dukagjini was an Albanian prince who fought against the Ottoman Empire. A contemporary of Skanderbeg, Dukagjini is known for the Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit, a code of law instituted in northern Albania.- Biography :...

, a collection of Albanian traditional customs and cultural practices. Besa is an important part of personal and familial standing and is often used as an example of "Albanianism". Someone who breaks his besa may even be banished from his community. The roots of this code sprouted from the Code of Leke Dukagjini, an Albanian cultural code.

Besa related sayings include:
  • Besa e shqiptarit nuk shitet pazarit (the honor of an Albanian can not be sold or bought in a bazaar)
  • Shqiptaret vdesin dhe besen nuk e shkelin (Albanians would die rather than break honor)
  • Besa e shqiptarit si purteka e arit, etj (the Albanians' honor is worth more than gold)

Besa is a key theme in the novel Kush e solli Doruntinën (Who Brought Doruntina Home) (1980), by Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare
Ismail Kadare
Ismail Kadare is an Albanian writer. He is known for his novels, although he was first noticed for his poetry collections. In the 1960s he focused on short stories until the publication of his first novel, The General of the Dead Army. In 1996 he became a lifetime member of the Academy of Moral...


Besa during the World War II

Besa also means taking care of those in need and being hospitable. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Albanians, 70% of whom are Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

, saved over 2000 Jews from Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 persecution. Rather than hiding the Jews in attics or the woods, Albanians gave them clothes, gave them Albanian names, and treated them as part of the family. The concept of besa is incorporated into their culture. Before World War II only about 200 Albanians were Jewish. At the end of the war about 2000 Jews were living in Albania. A feature film documentary is currently in post production titled God's House about American photographer Norman H. Gershman's quest to tell the story of Besa and the Albanians who saved Jews during World War II. This story was featured on CBS News Sunday Morning
CBS News Sunday Morning
CBS News Sunday Morning is an American television news magazine program created by Robert Northshield and original host Charles Kuralt. The program has aired continuously since January 28, 1979 on the CBS Television Network, airing in the Eastern US on Sunday from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m...

 on November 8, 2009 for the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht
Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938.Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and...

, which occurred on November 9, 1938.

External links

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