On December 14, 2014, Ambassador Mal Berisha, an IAPS adviser, presented a speech at the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research, highlighting the work of Herman Bernstein, American Minister to Albania (1930–33), and the fact that throughout history and especially during the Holocaust, not one Jew was harmed in Albania. For more on Berisha’s presentation see his website post (Albanian) and click here for his 50-paged brochure on Bernstein (PDF).
Ambassador Berisha’s work on Bernstein intersects with Protestant studies in this way, in Berisha’s words:
“I discovered Herbert Bernstein’s name while I was working on a book about another American, Charles Telford Erickson. The latter refers in his books to the contributions of Herman Bernstein in Albania as the American Minister of that time and also to their friendly relations. It was interesting to learn that when Herbert Hoover was Secretary of Trade, he gave Erickson 10,000 USD from his private account as a donation to the Agricultural School of Kavaja, Albania, on the condition of anonymity. Bernstein was personally interested in the school’s progress. Hoover’s bill of donation was revealed only after both had died, in 1966. The connection between President Hoover and Bernstein was strengthened when the latter wrote a book dedicated to the former, The Man who Brought America to the World …
“In 1919 Bernstein went to Paris with the American Delegation as a journalist. He reported from Paris for many American newspapers. The story of the Paris Peace Conference is very important for Albania and is entirely linked to the position of the United States represented by President Wilson and to the contributions of an American missionary, Charles Telford Erickson. The latter started his missionary work in Albania in 1908, when Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire. After four years of hard work and persecution he was deported by Serbs who had invaded Albania right after Turks left. However, he never ceased working for Albania until he died at 99 years of age in 1966. Erickson was called upon by the Albanian Americans of a patriotic organization, the Pan-Albanian Federation VATRA, to join the Albanian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference. In Paris, Albania was at risk of being split up and seized by its neighbours, the Greeks, Serbs, Italians and Montenegrins. In this way, Albania was to be shrunk to an insignificant province.
“It was Charles Telford Erickson who informed President Wilson in daily briefs about Albania’s history and why it was facing that situation. Erickson had known the wife of President Wilson, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, because they both had worked for the International Red Cross. He took advantage of this connection and channeled through her all of the letters he was preparing on behalf of the Albanian delegation. In this way, he succeeded in convincing President Wilson to declare that America would never sign a final document of the Paris Peace Conference if the borders of Albania would be violated. This was the first of the two greatest contributions of the United States towards Albania in twentieth century (the second was the liberation of Kosova in 1999). When we analyze relations between Erickson and the American Delegation led by President Wilson, and between Erickson and Bernstein, we attain a better understanding of how these people worked for Albania. In the thirties they both worked for American–Albanian projects: Erickson as a missionary and Bernstein as a diplomat.”