Albania was functioning as a Monarchy when it was occupied by Italy. In April, 1939, the Italian Army invaded and took control of the Country almost without a fight. It was annexed to Italy and a Fascist Administration, similar to the one in Italy, was established there, while King Zog fled to Britain. Those who opposed the occupation were put in prison or exiled. In the spring of 1940, Underground elements began to operate in Albania, assisted by the British SOE, with the intention of instigating a rebellion against the Italian Forces. The fall of its neighbors, Yugoslavia and then Greece, thwarted those plans. Following the German defeats in El Alamein and Stalingrad, Communist elements began to organize a new Underground in the mountains, supported by Tito’s Yugoslav Resistance. Their leader was Enver Hoxha, the future almighty ruler of this Country.
The collapse of Mussolini’s Regime, in 1943, resulted in the departure of the Italian Army from Albania, with a large volume of its weapons and equipment falling into the hands of the Underground. The Partisans celebrated the liberation of their Capital, Tirana, but it was brief because the Germans acted quickly and rushed Forces to Albania, who took control of the Country once again. In 1944, German Forces began to withdraw from Greece through Albanian territory. The various Underground Organizations, who were engaged in fighting each other, occasionally also managed to hit the retreating Troops, with British support and direction.
There was a small Jewish Community in Albania, about 30 families in total, numbering approximately 200 persons. It too contributed its part to the Underground, especially the Communist, and one of its men, Pepe Biro Kantos, even held a senior position in the post-war Albanian Army.