Interview with Dr. Bernd Fischer, prominent American historian
The prominent American historian, Dr. Bernd Fischer says that Albanians must be proud about the war that they fought during the Second World War. Dr. Fischer, member of the committee in charge of rewriting Albania’s history, analyzes in this interview, the war that engulfed the entire world. He stops on Albania and says that during the Second World War, alongside the resistance against invaders, Albania also had elements of the civil war. He says that the king of Albania, Ahmet Zogu should have not left on April 7, 1939.
Meanwhile, at the peak of political and historical debates in Albania, Dr. Fischer mentions a new date for the liberation of the country. He says that Albania was not liberated on November 28 and November 29, but on December 4, 1944.
In the interview below, Mr. Fischer also analyzes the current developments. He says that the period after 1990 up until today, is the best period for Albanians since the proclamation of Independence in 1912.
Interviewed by Roland Qafoku
Mr. Fisher, why did you accept to be a member of a commission in charge of rewriting the history of Albania?
I believe that the process of rewriting history is a very important process. I have supported the idea that history must be rewritten time after time, because it’s an ongoing process.
You have written several books on Albania, for the time of Zog, the Second World War and one for the Balkan dictators. But, you have also written about the period after 1990. Why will you write about the period of the Second World War?
It has been a very interesting period for me, which has an impact even now in Albania.
Do you feel privileged that you will not be contested, because you’re a foreigner and what’s more, an American?
I believe that up to a certain extent, it’s positive thing; foreigners can be more objective. But, there’s also a disadvantage to it, because I have the same feeling for Albania as someone who lives here. I can say that there are two sides, one is positive and one is negative, because I don’t know Albania as I would know it had I been living here.
You have a famous expression, “in order to know the Albanians of 2000s, one must know the Albanians of the Second World War”. In other words, in order to know the young generation, one must know the ancestors. What’s the relation between our generation and our ancestors in history?
I believe that it’s true and that there’s an expression on this issue. I can even recall one now, which I use during my lesions, “history creates us and grows us” and this is why it’s very important.
There are several moments during the Second World War on which we, Albanians, continue to debate. Must Albanians feel proud for what they have done during the Second World War and why?
I believe that it’s important to feel proud, because the Albanian people has gone through many sufferings and sacrifices and has given a great contribution during this period.
Was it a treason what Ahmet Zogu did in 1939 when he left on April 7?
I believe that he should have left in a different form. The fact that he left in such a hurry made his government to be called a government in exile. There has also been a case of a government in exile in Europe, but this is not the case. I believe that he could have stayed a little longer in order to create resistance, although I think that at the end of the day, this resistance would not have been worth it. Nevertheless, he should have stayed as leader of the country and not leave in such a hurry.
Was it the will of Albanian people to unite with Italy?
Absolutely not. At that time, Albania was invaded by Italy and this was Italy’s decision, which was opposed by the majority of Albanians.
What was the World War Two in Albania: An anti-fascist resistance, an anti-fascist resistance with elements of civil war or a civil war?
I believe that there were elements of a civil war. All the information and communications that I have read, indicate that the sides were fighting each other, but there was also an anti-fascist resistance.
You’re talking about 1994, the end of the war?
No, no. I believe that it has started before this, because several groups had been formed, such as the communists, National Front or those groups that were in favor of King Zog, fighting each other. There was an expectation that non communist groups would defend their population as soon as the war started. When the uprising against Germans and Italians started, it was difficult to defend their population and as a result, resistance stopped in certain cases and in certain others, it was weakened a great deal. Thus, communists became their main enemy. And, as a result, some of these groups started to collaborate with the occupier. This is why we have the differences that exist today. As I have said, with an organization such as the National Front, given that it was not very centralized like the Communist Party, there were elements that collaborated with the occupiers, but also some who showed resistance against them. I believe that we cannot speak in a general way for an organizations such as National Front.
Who fought against occupiers in Albania, partisans alone, meaning communists, or nationalists too?
As I said, nationalists fought, but not all of them.
Mr. Fischer, did Frontists fight?
I believe that there were elements who fought and some who collaborated.
What was a partisan and what was a frontist in the Second World War in Albania?
Partisans were dominated by communists, while frontists were made of several groups. There are crucial differences between the two groups, but I can say that within the National Front, there were elements before the war, which we do not find in the partisan movement.
Conference of Mukje, conference of Peza and conference of Permet, what were these political meetings in Albania?
The essence of the pact of Mukje was that there should be a nationalist movement, but these contradict each other.
Why do they contradict each other?
Given that in the conference of Mukje, Kosovo became an important element, what Hoxha created in the country, what has been called as a nationalist-Marxist state (but nationalist not in the traditional meaning), also includes elements of irredentism. Meanwhile, Zog’s policies do not include this. And for this, he was widely condemned by traditional nationalists.
It’s been 24 years that we debate and we’re asking you the famous question, when was Albania liberated?
My date comes from German documents that I’ve read. One of them, which I have published, has been written by a German officer. It’s a 100 page document which describes all their activity, including the date when the Germans left. Germans stick to the idea that they left on December 4, 1944, therefore, neither 28, nor 29 November. In reality, it’s very hard to establish when they left, but I believe that German documents must be respected. My idea is that liberation must be celebrated in a general way and not a particular date. Or celebrate both days.
Mr. Fischer, how is Albania 24 years after the fall of communism?
It’s much better than the period right after the fall of communism. Albania is moving in the right direction, although there are many problems coming from Hoxha’s regime, which was very oppressive.
In 102 years of being a state, what has been the best period for us Albanians?
I believe that it was the period after the communism. There’s more political freedom, Albania is open toward the rest of Europe and the world. Thus, in my perspective, this is Albania’s golden age. In spite of this, there are many challenges and many Albanians suffer economically. The welfare of the people must be the scope of every government.
Who is the biggest enemy for Albanians?
Albania has fought with many countries, from the Normans, to the Turks, Greeks, Serbs, etc. For me, Ottomans cannot be described as enemies, while the others can. As far as the modern age is concerned, Albania faces many challenges, but I wouldn’t use the term enemy.
Mr. Fischer, what is your opinion in relation to the problems in the match between Serbia and Albania?
It was an unfortunate incident in many levels. In a way, it was a wise thing, but I think that it was also a dangerous provocation. The response coming from the Serbs including fans and the government, was an unacceptable response. We know that matches contain hooligans, but in the case of Serbia, there’s an added element of racism, which was made clear before the incident with the flag. The reaction from the crowd after the flag was seen, was unacceptable. I believe that police failed in its duty. Serb politics also manifested an unacceptable response. I fear that this is a step backward in the relations between the two countries. It’s highly likely that this will delay integration of both countries in the EU. It was an unfortunate and serious event. We must wait and see how UEFA will react.
What did you think when you heard the declarations of Serb politicians, especially of the prime minister?
Like I said, the government’s reaction was unacceptable, because they didn’t accept any responsibility. Meanwhile, the reaction of the Albanian government was more of a protective one.
Prime minister Rama will visit Belgrade in a few days, what is your opinion on this visit which is the first one after 68 years?
It’s a very important event and I’m happy that the prime minister will go. I hope that the media will placate this ugly event with this meeting.