JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Jerusalem-based Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial recently recognized an Egyptian doctor who risked his life to rescue Jews during World War II. He is the first Arab to receive the prestigious honor.
Dr. Mohamed Helmy, born in 1901 in Sudan to Egyptian parents, travelled to Berlin to study medicine. In 1937, he was fired from his job because he wasn't light-skinned enough to suit his employers and spoke out against the Nazis.
In the height of the Nazi reign of terror, Dr. Helmy hid Anna Boros, 21, from the Gestapo and provided medical care and living arrangements for members of her family.
"A good friend of our family, Dr. Helmy…hid me in his cabin in Berlin-Buch from 10 March until the end of the war," Boros (Gutman after the war) wrote afterward.
"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 Berlin-Buch," she explained.
"He managed to evade all their interrogations. In such cases, he would bring me to friends where I would stay several days, introducing me as his cousin from Dresden," she continued. "When the danger would pass, I would return to the cabin….Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for all eternity."
Dr. Helmy and a local German woman named Frieda Szturmann worked together to save this Jewish family. Both are being recognized as "Righteous among the Nations."
Yad VaShem is trying to locate members of the doctor's family to display the medal. It is especially meaningful in view of Holocaust denial in the Arab world.
In 1963, Yad VaShem established the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous to honor those individuals as the Righteous among the Nations.