Visitors at Yad Vashem 370.
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial announced that it has recognized an Egyptian
as Righteous Among the Nations, a title reserved for gentiles who risked
themselves to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
Dr. Mohamed Helmy
and Frieda Szturmann, a German woman, were honored for hiding several Berlin
Jews from the Nazis who otherwise would have been deported to death camps. Helmy
is the first Egyptian to receive this honor, Yad Vashem announced.
who was born in Khartoum, Sudan in 1901 to Egyptian parents, came to Berlin to
study medicine in 1922 and worked at the Robert Koch Institute until he was
fired, due to his non- Aryan ethnicity, in 1937.
According to Yad Vashem,
Helmy spoke out against Nazi policies despite the extreme risk, and when
21-year-old Anna Boros, a family friend, was in danger of deportation, he
successfully hid her and, later on, her family from Nazi
Boros later recalled that Helmy had hid her “in his cabin in
Berlin-Buch from March 10 until the end of the war. As of 1942, I no longer had
any contact with the outside world. The Gestapo knew that Dr. Helmy was our
family physician, and they knew that he owned a cabin in
“He managed to evade all their interrogations. In such
cases he would bring me to friends where I would stay for several days,
introducing me as his cousin from Dresden.
When the danger would pass, I
would return to his cabin,” she said. “Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of
the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for
Yad Vashem is looking for Helmy’s family; he died in 1982 in
Danny Rainer of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
praised the decision to acknowledge Helmy’s actions.
“This is great
news,” he said.
“It emphasizes the fact that there were rescuers from all
nationalities, ethnic groups, religious beliefs or even
This is a long and painstaking process, but we are sure
that there are many more Muslim rescuers awaiting to be
Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world and
decades of war have meant that stories of Arabs who saved Jewish lives have not
had the chance to become known in Israel.
Tamara Zieve contributed to