Israel′s Yad Vashem honors first Arab as ′Righteous Among the Nations′ for heroism during Holocaust | News | DW | 26.10.2017
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Honoring heros

Israel's Yad Vashem honors first Arab as 'Righteous Among the Nations' for heroism during Holocaust

Israel has presented its Holocaust medal posthumously to an Egyptian-born doctor who in wartime Berlin saved Jews. In Berlin to receive the award was Mohammed Helmy's great nephew from Cairo.

Deutschland Berlin - ägyptischer Doktor Mohamed Helmy wird als Gerechter unter den Völkern geehrt (Getty Images/AFP/J. Macdougall)

Ambassador Issacharoff at Thursday's Berlin award ceremony

Israeli ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff presented the medal Thursday to Helmy's descendant, Dr Nasser Kotby, also a physician, in the German Foreign Office.

Thursday's ceremony was cast as the first time Israel had recognized an Arab as a hero for risking his life to save Jews during World War Two.

Also present were descendants of the Jewish family from New York.

Issacharoff was quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying Helmy had proven that "we all share a human element that extends beyond every political consideration."

Read more: Schindler factory becomes memorial

Helmy had arrived in 1922 to study medicine in Berlin and subsequently worked as a urologist at its Robert Koch Institute, and postwar as a general practitioner.

He died in Berlin in 1982.

Recipient's family reticent

Although detained on occasions by Hitler's Nazis, Helmy managed to hide a young Jewish woman, Anna Boros, in property he owned.

He also found places for Boros' grandmother and tended Boros' parents.

Deutschland Berlin - ägyptischer Doktor Mohamed Helmy wird als Gerechter unter den Völkern geehrt (Getty Images/AFP/J. Macdougall)

Helmy helped the persecuted, says Yad Vashem

Helmy joins more than 26,500 "Righteous Among the Nations" awardees, including around 70 Muslims, honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial.

It recognized Helmy back in 2013 but family reportedly declined to accept it because of Arab-Israeli tensions, until filmmaker Taliya Finkel sought out next of kin to document the story.

Saw persecuted as human beings

Yad Vashem awards director Irena Steinfeldt said Helmy, although himself targeted by the Nazis, "saw the persecuted as human beings, and felt it was his duty to stand up and act."

Finkel's film called "Anne and the Egyptian Doctor" uses animation and brings together relatives of Boros and Helmy at locations in the families' story.

She contacted Boros' daughter, US-born Carla Gutman Greenspan, and, in the search for Helmy's next of kin, traced Kotby in Egypt.

ipj/kms (AFP, epd, KNA, dpa)

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