Renovation of Nazi ally’s home in Kosovo sparks ire

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MITROVICA, Kosovo, Feb 11 (Reuters) – The renovation of a house in Kosovo that belonged to a minister in a pro-Nazi government during World War Two has sparked outcry, with Germany warning against “laundering ” historic and the European Union and the United Nations stop the project.

The three-storey red-brick house in Mitrovica, built in the 1930s by Austrian architects, was the home of Xhafer Deva, who served as interior minister in the pro-German government in 1943 and 1944.

In a joint statement, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Kosovo and the European Union apologized for omitting Deva’s historical background when announcing the plan to restore the house as a cultural heritage site.

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Germany’s ambassador to Kosovo, Joren Rohde, said he was very concerned about the restoration.

“Do not distort the truth about the Holocaust or war crimes committed by Nazis and local collaborators,” Rohde said on Twitter earlier this week, saying the project risked whitewashing history.

Hajrulla Ceku, Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, defended the restoration project at a press conference the day after the EU and UNDP decided to stop work on the site.

“We are restoring the monument but not the story of Xhafer Deva,” Ceku said. He did not confirm whether the Kosovo government would continue to work on the restoration.

During Deva’s time as minister, Kosovo was considered by Germany to be part of Albania.

Historians say security force units under Deva, who viewed the Nazis as allies to fight the Communists, committed atrocities, including the massacre of suspected anti-fascist sympathizers. Some recent research indicates that Deva may have helped protect Jews, however.

“He is a war criminal, he committed crimes against his political opponents but personally, he never agreed to hand over lists of Kosovo Jews despite the persistence of the Nazi authorities,” explains Durim Abdullahu, professor of history at Pristina State University.

After the war, Deva left Kosovo. He lived in several European countries before settling in California, where he died in 1978.

In Mitrovica he is still famous. A few meters from the house, a wall in the main square is adorned with pictures of city figures, including Deva and the government’s wartime prime minister, Rexhep Mitrovica.

A Reuters witness found three streets named after Deva in Kosovo, including one in Pristina a few hundred meters from the German Embassy.

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Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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