Holocaust historian and the director of “Simon Wiesenthal” Center, Efraim Zuroff, said that he is proud of his role in helping stop the restoration project on the house of Xhafer Deva in South Mitrovica.
“Extremely proud of our role in helping stop this terribly-flawed project, which would have glorified a notorious fanatic Nazi collaborator responsible for the deaths of many Serbs and Jews,” Zuroff tweeted two nights ago, while also publishing a BIRN piece on the news that the renovation works on Deva’s house were put on hold.
Renovation of Nazi Ally’s House in Kosovo Halted After Outcry https://t.co/yy7HAS0q8D Extremely proud of our role in in helping stop this terribly-flawed project, which would have glorified a notorious fanatic Nazi collaborator responsible for the deaths of many Serbs and Jews.
— Efraim Zuroff (@EZuroff) February 9, 2022
Following news that the restoration has been initiated, as the Belgrade media previously reported, Zuroff sent a protest letter to the head of the EU delegation in Israel on the occasion.
The Ministry of Culture of Kosovo, however, says it will not give up on the restoration of the house of Xhafer Deva in Mitrovica, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrulla Ceku announced at a press conference yesterday.
Ceku, who described the reactions in the past few days to the news that the house of Wehrmacht collaborator would be renovated as “hysterical,” says that this debate was opened by Serbia.
According to him, this “discourse is dangerous”, and international partners will be “given enough time to get clarifications.” Furthermore, Ceku stressed that this ministry will not give up on the project, as Kosovo has „enough money in its budget.“ He, however, stressed that the project “must be resumed“ with international partners.
The decision of international agencies to place the project on hold arrived after Serbian historians pointed out that Deva was a prominent figure of the Wehrmacht in reaction to the initial news that the agencies boasted that they would restore „the most amazing heritage site – the house of Xhafer Deva“, together with the Kosovo Ministry of Culture.
The EU and UNDP soon distanced themselves, alleging that they were „concerned over the controversy“ surrounding this house and that they were „working on alternatives.“ However, the situation further escalated after the German ambassador in Pristina, Jorn Rohde, reacted.
“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, underlining that he is “very concerned.” Yesterday, the rapporteur for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon, sent the same messages.
This triggered an avalanche of criticism in the Albanian public. The former Kosovan FM, Behgjet Pacolli, was one of the many who criticized Rohde’s statements and highlighted Deva’s role as “a protector of Jews.” An anthropologist from Cambridge with Albanian roots Nora Weller said that the German ambassador’s reaction is “based on false information.” During last night’s guest appearance on KTV, Weller directly accused Rohde of causing damage by incorrectly linking the restoration of the house with false accusations that Kosovo was denying the Holocaust.
In South Mitrovica, a mural of Xhafer Deva can be found in the very center of the city, along with another figure whose character and work was a subject of controversy since World War II – Rexhep Mitrovica. Also, several streets in Kosovo bear Deva’s name – in South Mitrovica, Urosevac, and Pristina. After the war, a former Yugoslav cultural center, Dragica Zarkovic, has been named after Rexhep Mitrovica, who was posthumously awarded by the then Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga. The works on the reconstruction of the center were financed by the EU.
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