Albania held a ceremony in parliament Tuesday to commemorate resistance efforts during World War II that helped the country's tiny Jewish minority escape the Holocaust.

Some 1,200 Jews, residents and refugees from other Balkan countries, were hidden by Albanian families during the war, according to official records.

The ambassadors of Israel and the United States attended the ceremony in parliament.

"The Holocaust was the defining moment of the 20th century. ... Most nations and their people failed to meet the challenge. But that did not happen in Albania," said Warren Miller, head of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad.

Parliament Speaker Jozefina Topalli said the success of saving the country's Jews was a source of national pride.

"But we have convened (a special session) not only out of pride in our past but also in respect of the innocent victims of one of the darkest time of humanity," Topalli said.

Albania was occupied from 1939 to 1943 by fascist Italy and then by Nazi Germany until 1944. Partisan groups who helped liberate the country formed the communist party that ruled Albania until 1990.

About 300 Jews lived in Albania until the collapse of communism, but most have since emigrated to the United States and Israel.