The widow of Albania’s former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, considered the power behind the throne and herself personally implicated in executions and deportations during his regime, died on Wednesday aged 99, her family said.
Nexhmije Hoxha outlived her husband by more than 30 years but never showed any remorse over his reign of terror.
Albanian writer Ismail Kadare described her in his book “The Devil’s Wife” as “the most evil, the most perverse” of dictators’ wives.
During the regime’s 1945-1991 rule, 5,577 men and 450 women were executed, more than 26,000 people were imprisoned and 32,000 deported, while 77,000 perished in labour camps.
Hoxha died at home in the modest Tirana apartment where she lived with her daughter and niece, her daughter-in-law told AFP by telephone.
In a statement to the media, her son Ilir Hoxha expressed his “sorrow” and said his mother “dedicated her whole life to the liberation of the homeland and the construction of a new Albania, to progress and the emancipation of Albanian society”.
After Albania’s communist regime collapsed in 1991, Hoxha served five years in jail for embezzling public money.
She never missed a chance to praise her husband, once calling him “not a dictator but an ideal leader who knew how to defend his country from foreign and local enemies threatening Albania’s existence”.
“What should I be ashamed of? Why ask for a pardon? I do not regret anything and there is nothing I should feel guilty for. We only respected laws in force at the time,” she told AFP in a 2008 interview.
Born into a family of ethnic Albanian Muslims on February 8, 1921 in the Macedonian town of Bitola, Hoxha met her future husband, 13 years her senior, at a clandestine meeting of the Albanian Communist Party in 1941.
They married a year later and she embraced his revolutionary ideas based on the teachings of Marx and Lenin, reaching the top ranks of the communist party herself.
Under her husband’s reign, Albania broke off links with other communist states after World War II and was for decades completely isolated from the outside world.
Always an overbearing figure, her control and influence grew during the final years of his rule when his health was failing.
Former Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha said Nexhmije “led Albania well before the death of her husband” in 1985.
In February 2016 she said that “cleaning the mud thrown on Enver was a reason to live this long,” expressing confidence that her and her husband’s “merits” would one day be recognised.
“But by then I will be dead,” she said at the time.
Hoxha spent her later years living in a Tirana suburb, where she wrote her memoirs “My Life With Enver”, surrounded by books, pictures and memorabilia.
She will be buried at a public cemetery on Thursday, her family said.