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Mohamed Helmy, the first Arab to become a Righteous

recognized by Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem's diploma recognizing Helmy as a Righteous (source: Haaretz)

Yad Vashem's diploma recognizing Helmy as a Righteous (source: Haaretz)

Mohamed Helmy is the first Arab to be recognized as Righteous among the nations by Yad Vashem. Born in Khartoum in 1901, he moved to Berlin to study medicine and found a job at the Robert Koch institute. Helmy was though fired and compelled to open a private practice because according to the racial laws he was considered as a “camite” and he could not work for public health care in Germany.
When Jews deportations started, Helmy hid a girl, Anna Boros, and her family in a hit he owned in Buch, near Berlin. With the help of Frieda Szturmann, a Righteous already, the man moved the Jews from a shelter to another each time the Nazis came near the hut. When Anna’s stepfather, George Wehr, was captured by the Germans and revealed the hiding place of his family under torture, Helmy took Anna to Frieda Szturmann, thus managing to rescue her from deportation. After the war the woman, who had emigrated to the US, wrote several letters to the Berlin Senate to remember the rescue deeds performed by Mohamed Helmy and Frieda Szturmann. Precisely thanks to the finding of these document Yad Vashem retraced Helmy’s tale and awarded him with the title of Righteous among the nations. “Despite cultural and religious differences – said Avner Shalev, the museum’s director, he honored the loftiest values of humanity, although he was aware he was running a major risk”.
 Now Yad Vashem is seeking Helmy’s relative sto give them the medal witnessing to his recognition. Martina Voigt, the historian who ran the research about Helmy, discovered that the man got married after the war and lived in Berlin until he died, in 1982. Also his wife passed away, in 1998, and they had no children. 
Mohamed Helmy is the first Egyptian and the first Arab, as well, to receive this honor. In the list of the Righteous among nations there are in fact some Muslims, but no Arab, as Nazi Germany occupied North Africa just for a short time and the local population which rescued the Jews had to run very limited risks during that time.

2 October 2013

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Rescuers

whoever saves a life saves the entire world

In Yad Vashem's Memorial, in Jerusalem, the Garden of the Righteous remembers those who tried to rescue the Jews in the Holocaust: those who hidd them, helped them expatriate with forged documents, nourished them or gave them a job; those who, seeing them suffer, helped them somehow instead of remaining indifferent.In Yerevan's Wall of Remembrance the memorial stones remember the rescuers of Armenians during the genocide of 1915, those who tried to stop the massacre, refused to obey orders, sheltered children, reported the extermination that was occurring beneath their hopeless eyes to the world's public opinion.
In 1994 in Rwanda, some Tutsies who were hunted by the interahamwe militias were protected by neighbours, friends - some times strangers, too - belonginf to the Hutu ethnic group, who refused participating in the "man hunt" with machetes that had been planned by other Hutus to exterminate the country's Tutsi minority.
While ethnic cleansing was ravaging Bosnia leading to the murder of thousands innocent victims some people trying to escape the massacre were helped in the same way by neighbours, school mates, friends, or strangers, who were members of other ethnic groups.
Still todate, in many places in the world, there are such rescuers who risk and sometimes lose their lives in the attempt of helping the victims, and become victims themselves. Other times they lose their jobs, wellbeing, social status or they are imprisoned, tortured, cast out. At any rate, even before starting their endeavours, they know they run a serious risk, but they prefer doing so rather than bearing the weigh of remorse for remaining indifferent for the rest of their lives. Everytime by their action they "save the entire world", as stands in the Talmud.

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