Kadri Cakrani’s life before, during, and after WWII
Albania has now returned to the light of democracy, with a bright future ahead. Albania is in negotiations to join the EU and seeks to be a modern democracy in Europe again. People can safely talk about the brave acts of Berat and Albania during the Holocaust. By putting aside Albania's previous "Reign of Terror" (as it is now termed in the National Museum), the current PM of Albania, Edi Rama, said that Albania under Communism had been "the North Korea of Europe."
Commandant Kadri Cakrani escaped from Albania in November 1944 with the assistance of British Intelligence as Communist dictator Enver Hoxha sought to capture and kill him. Tragically, Hoxha did capture and hang Cakrani’s uncle and brother and imprisoned Cakrani’s other two brothers.
Kadri Cakrani became a political refugee in Italy and Syria. He was at the top of Hoxha’s enemies list for opposing Hoxha and the rise of Communism. Although Cakrani was from one of the Founding Families of Albania (his father signed Albania’s 1912 Declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire) and was a distinguished military hero and dutiful public servant in his own right, Hoxha perpetrated fabricated stories to discredit Cakrani’s reputation and legacy.
Hoxha held a treason trial for Kadri Cakrani in Albania but was unable to extradite Cakrani despite pleas to the leaders of the Western world: President Truman, Prime Minister Churchill, and General Secretary Stalin. See original letter from the US administration here.
President Harry Truman granted Kadri Cakrani political asylum. Cakrani arrived in America with $7.00 in his wallet, having left his birthright and everything else in Albania. He barely escaped with the clothes on his back under threat of death. Cakrani worked with U.S. Intelligence for the rest of his life to bring democracy back to Albania. Family celebrations in Philadelphia toasted, “Rrofte Shqiperia! Vitin tjeter ne Shqiperi!” (“Long Live Albania! Next Year in Albania!”).
In May 1972, Cakrani waited in Spain with U.S. Intelligence and a group of Albanian patriots (including exiled Prince Leka) to be parachuted into Albania as its new democratic government, but the mission was called off. When Cakrani returned to Philadelphia, he gave his granddaughter Elizabeth a distinctive black with gold necklace (called Damascene style) as a souvenir from his trip. It was a medallion of a Star of David. She never knew why he gave her a "Jewish star" necklace until 2020 when she learned of his heroic acts. When he gave her the necklace, he must have hoped that she would one day soon learn the significance of receiving this symbol from him. When Cakrani died later that year, his death certificate listed “Stateless” as his citizenship, because he always believed he would return to a democratic Albania in his lifetime.
Notable Facts about Kadri Cakrani’s Life
He graduated from Theresian Military Academy in Austria.
In the years before WWII, he became a co-founder of the Balli Kombetar political party and represented Albania at peace summits in Europe.
He continued his family’s legacy by working with the Cakrani Foundation, which first provided aid to those affected by WWI and the Spanish Flu.
While the Albanian economy was struggling, he gave generously, sharing his own resources to shelter and help complete strangers to safety.
He was fluent in German. As noted in his military journals, he was able to talk, argue, and lie clearly in German to the Nazis because of his education in Austria. In one journal entry, he described being taken to a secluded place for an energetic interrogation by Nazi officers; he said he was sure he would be killed for not providing the information requested, and he was shocked he left the meeting alive. Knowledge of the German language also helped him to be an Intelligence asset in the U.S. after WWII; the U.S. did not have an Albanian translator, so a German translator would work with Cakrani and U.S. officials. Since he could not read English, the only U.S. newspaper he read was one published in the German language by the local Philadelphia German community.