In first, Israel honours Egyptian Holocaust rescuer

Monday 30 Sep 2013

Late Egyptian doctor, Mohammed Helmy, is the first citizen of an Arab country who receives an award which is given to non-Jews who stood up to the Nazi genocide during the World War II

Ghetto in Lublin, Poland (Photo: AP)

Israel has posthumously honoured an Egyptian doctor for his role rescuing Jews during World War II, the first time a citizen of the Arab country has received the award.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial authority in Jerusalem, awarded Dr Mohammed Helmy the honour of "Righteous Among The Nations," which is given to non-Jews who stood up to the Nazi genocide during the war.

Helmy, who was living in Berlin, hid a young Jewish woman in a property he owned during the war and also provided medical treatment for three of her relatives, Yad Vashem said Monday.

"Despite being targeted by the regime, Helmy spoke out against Nazi policies, and notwithstanding the great danger, risked his life by helping his Jewish friends," Yad Vashem said.

"When the deportations of the Jews from Berlin began, 21-year-old Anna Boros, a family friend, was in need of a hiding place," it said in a statement.

"Helmy brought her to a cabin he owned in the Berlin neighbourhood of Buch which became her safe haven until the end of the war," it said, adding that Boros later became Anna Gutman.

"Helmy also helped Gutman's mother Julie, stepfather Georg Wehr, and her grandmother Cecilie Rudnik... he arranged for Rudnik to be hidden in the home of Frieda Szturmann," who was also recognised as Righteous Among The Nations, it said.

Helmy died in 1982, and Szturmann in 1962.

The Righteous Among The Nations title has been awarded to some 24,000 people in 44 countries since it was set up in 1963.

Honorees receive medals, and their names are inscribed on a dedicated wall near the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Last week, a Tour de France-winning Italian cyclist who helped rescue Jews by smuggling documents on his bicycle while pretending to train, posthumously received the honour.

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