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We met again to mourn

Excerpt from Kadare's Ra ky mort e u pamė (We met again to mourn). Ra ky mort e u pamė contains some of the great writer's diary entries and comments related to the recent genocidal war of Serbia against Albanians. Following is the entry for September 4, 1999. The NATO war against Serbia had ended in June.

After the first well-publicized massacres in Kosova and especially when the images of deportation started to appear, the mention of the Holocaust of the Jews became more common. There were different, often contradictory opinions as to whether or not the comparison was valid, whether it belittled the suffering of the Jews, whether or not it caused the uniqueness of Shoah to be lost, etc. Nevertheless, there were many Jews and others who did compare the two situations, most of them emphasizing that comparing them does not imply that they are the same.

As a matter of fact, the disaster that happened to the Jews in the middle of the century has been and still remains unequalled. It is the black culmination of a centuries-old horror and shame that stains the consciousness of many nations. As such, with this planetary dimension, with its still audible 2300 year old echo, it can be said that Shoah is mankind's nightmare.

Precisely because it is so, it does not exclude, but rather invites the comparison. The crimes that were committed against the Albanian nation in Kosova at the end of this millennium indeed were apocalyptic. Until now, I haven't heard any kosovar Albanians insist on comparing their horror with any other horror. The comparison was mainly made by the world press.

Serbs especially have opposed this comparison rabidly. For a long time their propaganda machine had been spreading the cliché according to which Serbs and Jews together had been persecuted by the German and Croat Nazis. At least in France, they had been able to cover with silence the massacres that they themselves had committed against the Jews, until The Ethnic Cleansing of the authors Mirko Grmek, Marc Gjidara, and Neven Šimac was published by Fayard.

With the hope of rousing feelings of resentment towards Kosova Albanians, Serbs and their friends in Europe sticked to the theory that Shoah should not be belittled. More and more shamelessly, some writers started to almost call scandalous the comparison of Miloševic and his crimes to Hitler and Nazi crimes.

If this comparison lacks in perfection, that is not any better for the Serbs. I am deeply convinced and I am not afraid to say that in the Balkans peninsula nobody else, not even the Nazis, have committed crimes as horrendous as Serb crimes.

Crime is not of infinite magnitude. Shooting children, raping them before and mutilating them after, this is a supreme crime in this world. Serbs have done this many times. And they have been applauded by the majority of their population for this.

The support for the Serb crime by a part of the media and intellectuals, mainly in Greece, Italy, Spain, and in France to a certain extent, really begs for another comparison with the antisemitic crime. The antisemitic crime that was committed by the Nazis had the support of a part of the world, and of most of Europe. Antisemitism was supported first and was condemned later. It can be seen that both these crimes needed time, they needed support...

Recently I have thought very often about this two-way symmetry, as well as about the entire story of the Jews. There is something very disquieting, something that looks dead but that has remained alive, this time to harm not only the Jews, but the entire world. One of Kafka's stories talks about a bell that rings somewhere in a town, which can be heard at the home in which a murder is about to be committed. The bell continues to ring for the Jews.

Certainly, I know many things about Shoah, and I've had a special experience myself. In 1958, when I went to study in Moscow, most things seemed and indeed were better than in Albania. But there was an exception: In Russia you could feel the lack of love, to put it mildly, for the Jews. It could be felt, it was in the air everywhere. Just like the person who comes from a place without cars and who can easily feel the smell of gas, I came from a country that did not know antisemitism and I felt the evil. For the first time, somewhat nebulously, I understood what it meant to live in a country where another people are not accepted. Weakened, sprinkled with rose water by the soviet optimist lyricism, it could still be felt, that old persistent smell of death.

Two or three acquaintances and relationships with Jewish girls doubled and tripled my awareness of this.

The pain of Kosova naturally made the history of the Jews seem very familiar to all Albanians.

Just yesterday I finished reading the two volumes of the History of Antisemitism of the Russian-French Jew Leon Poliakov, former honorary research director at CNRS. It is undoubtedly the best book on this black subject.

The unfolding of a horror can surprise you, even when you think that you know it. The hate against Jews, since 300 years before Christ and until our century, is really too long to comprehend. I suspect that Hitler and the Nazis were just a well where world antisemitism poured some of the poison.

From the Scribes of Egypt to Rome's Tacitus the anger against a people boils. Philosophers, doctrinaires, academicians, musicians, writers. It's not only the flag-bearers like Baruch Spinosa or Richard Wagner, not even illuminists like Voltaire, or names that stand in the foundations of languages and philosophies like Martin Luther or Hegel. All these surprise us, naturally, they make us anxious, together with other distinguished figures: Schopenhauer, Swift, Laurence Sterne, (idol of modernists) Ernest Renan, Chateubriand. But some other names makes us even sadder, in the way that love makes us sad: Grimm brothers, Victor Hugo, Gogol, Dostoyevski. Why?

This story always ends in sudden darkness. An elusive mystery. It is a shady area where our wisdom and our consciousness lose against an unknown force. This is perhaps the reason why the horror keeps repeating itself.