Pacolli: Deva protected the Jews; an avalanche of negative reactions to the statement of the German ambassador

Xhafer Deva did not commit crimes against Jews – he protected them. He was the number one collaborator of the Americans in overthrowing the communist government in Albania – AKR leader and former Foreign Minister of Kosovo, Behgjet Pacolli, said last night. Pacolli urged the Kosovan government to „oppose the savage Serbian campaign, full of lies and untruths about this great activist of the Nation.“

Pacolli went on to describe Deva as a significant figure who „deserves fair treatment“.

„The Minister of the Interior of Albania in the government of Rexhep Mitrovica, Xhafer Deva, is undoubtedly one of the important figures in the national cause who deserves fair treatment for his work and deeds,“ the AKR leader underlined.

He stated that now „when the figure of Deva is placed under doubt“, it is necessary to „defend his values by reflecting reality“.

„There is no historical fact that says Xhafer Deva or his units committed crimes against any other community, let alone Jews,“ the former Kosovan foreign minister claims.

In his words, Xhafer Deva was actually „the number one collaborator of the Americans in overthrowing the communist government in Albania“.

It was „out of respect“ that Deva got a visa and emigrated to the United States in the 1960s, Pacolli alleges.

„He worked as an administrator at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, which was owned by Jewish families who were grateful to Xhafer Deva for protecting Jews in Kosovo and Albania,“ Pacolli added.

The AKR leader noted that he does not understand „why Kosovo’s diplomacy, and especially the heads of state, do not oppose the unrestrained Serbian campaign, full of lies and untruths about this great activist of the Nation.“

Xhafer Deva caught the public eye in both Kosovo and Serbia after the EU and the UNDP boasted that the restaurant works, valued at €300, 000, on Deva’s house were recently initiated. Serbian historians, however, recalled that he was actually a prominent Wehrmacht figure.

The official Belgrade also reacted. The Minister of Culture and Information of Serbia, Maja Gojkovic, sent a letter to the EU and the UNDP in which she called on them to give up on the reconstruction of the house of Deva.

“He was a notorious Nazi collaborator, who was active in the formation of the SS division ‘Skender-beg’, known for arranging and committing crimes against Serbs and Jews,“ Gojkovic wrote.

However what particularly caught the attention of the Kosovan public was yesterday’s tweets by the German ambassador to Pristina, Jorn Rohde, who expressed concern about restoration plans for Xhafer Deva’s house, while describing him as “a known Nazi collaborator/protagonist of infamous SS Skanderbeg Division.”

“No history whitewashing! Don’t distort the truth about the Holocaust or war crimes committed by the Nazis and local collaborators,” the German ambassador said, noting:

“This is memory culture the wrong way!”

Rohde’s tweets triggered an avalanche of reactions among Albanian Twitter users.

Kosovo Albanian politician and publicist, Veton Surroi, was one of the many who reacted. Surroi tweeted a photo showing Kosta Pecanac standing between Xhafer Deva and a Wehrmacht officer.

“A Wehrmacht officer with two collaborators : Chetnik leader Kosta Pevanac and Xhafer Deva. Podujevë/o, 1941. A blunt history lesson. An independent Kosovo was painfully but finally built as a victory of antifascism, the Transatlantic force that won over those of the picture,” Surroi said.

An anthropologist from Cambridge with Albanian roots Nora Weller stated: “Your reaction is based on false information. So sorry to see that you have completely distorted the narrative here.”

The majority of Albanian users of Twitter criticized Rohde’s tweets.

“I would like to know where you found this information because it is not in line with what we know and what you are saying. If Serbia is the source of your information, then I do not consider it credible,“ wrote one of the users of this social network.

Two types of messages dominate – those glorifying the role of Xhafer Deva, who is being described as an Albanian patriot, who fought against the Serb occupier and protected Jews, and messages that make no mention of his attitude towards Jews, i.e. which indirectly confirm the controversy of his roles. Some users directly underlined that Deva actually fought against the „greater evil“ – Serbian/Yugoslav and Russian communism. Some comments uncritically emphasize the loyalty to Germany.

„Are you downplaying the fact that the Albanians protected everyone during World War II? Xhafer Deva did cooperate with the Nazis, but never to kill others, but communists who proved that they are dictators, not better than the Nazis,“ said one of the users.

„Protect the facts! Give Xhafer Deva the honor he deserves, because he did as much as he could to save the Jews on Albanian territory, in addition to other good deeds he did for our nation,“ another Twitter user wrote.

Some, however, interpreted Rohde’s message to mean that the ambassador is „siding with Serbian interests.“ One user described the German ambassador as a „European/German Grenell.“ Some tweets had more offensive content, while one user wrote that „Germany should be preventively bombed every 50 years.“

However, some Albanian users on Twitter agreed with Rohde’s comments, and some even emphasized the fact that Deva’s house should be renovated solely due to its architectural value.

Last night, numerous Kosovo media outlets transmitted the reaction of the German ambassador and the Minister of Culture of Serbia. In their reports, these media outlets emphasized that the house in question is important precisely because of its architectural value, while also claiming that Xhafer Deva never lived in it.

In an op-ed published by Koha, titled: “(cf. Xhafer Deva) was not a patriot but a mercenary of the Nazis”, a well-known Swiss-Albanian journalist Enver Robelli also emphasized the cooperation between Deva and Chetnik Kosta Pecanac, both of whom cooperated with the Nazis. Robelli also writes that Skanderbeg’s division was short-lived because the Albanians left it and many more fought on the side of the allies.

On the other hand, only a small number of reactions arrived from the Serbian side. Balsa Bozovic from the Democratic Party was one of the few to react to Rohde’s statements.

Commenting on the allegations of the German ambassador in Pristina, Bozovic said it was „the strongest condemnation of the revision of history in the entire region! Death to fascism, freedom to the people!“

In early February, the EU and the UNDP boasted that the restaurant works, valued at €300,000, on the house of Xhafer Deva were recently initiated.

After the news about the restoration of Xhafer Deva’s house was published, several Serbian-language media outlets reported about controversies surrounding Deva. Dr. Nenad Antonijevic, museum advisor to the Museum of Genocide Victims, and Stefan Radojkovic, curator of the Museum of Genocide Victims explained in detail who exactly Xhafer Deva was in an op-ed published by KoSSev.

For the people unfamiliar with the history of World War II in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1941-1945) or those who only have a superficial knowledge of it, Xhafer Deva (1900/904-1978) – who was born in Istanbul in 1900 according to one source, or in Mitrovica in 1904, according to another – was a prominent associate of the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Nazi Germany entrusted with managing the occupation zone „Serbia“ (which spans the area of today’s Banat and the territory from Belgrade to Kosovska Mitrovica and Podujevo), which together with Thessaloniki formed a larger occupation unit called “Southeast. In addition to being the district chief of the Kosovo-Mitrovica district during the German occupation, General Hans Gustav Felber, the commander of the occupation unit „Southeast“ and the zone „Serbia“ from August 15th, 1943 to September 26th, 1944, describes Deva in his report as the main driving force in Kosovo and Metohija, noting that his actions against the partisans exceeded all Wehrmacht expectations,” they wrote in a op-ed published by KoSSev, after the international organizations boasted that the reconstruction works on Deva’s house have been initiated.

The EU and the UNDP then expressed concern over the controversy connecting the building’s past, saying they are “currently working on alternatives for the future benefit of the local community and inter-community dialogue.”

Read more:

German ambassador on Xhafer Deva’s house restoration: This is memory culture the wrong way

The EU and UNDP concerned over the controversy surrounding Xhafer Deva’s house and are working on alternatives

The case of the house of Xhafer Deva – Cultural heritage of Mitrovica as a Driver for Intercommunity Dialogue

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