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.
Helmy, 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 authorities.
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 Berlin-Buch.”
“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 eternity.”
Yad Vashem is looking for Helmy’s family; he died in 1982 in Berlin.
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 agnostics….
This is a long and painstaking process, but we are sure that there are many more Muslim rescuers awaiting to be discovered.”
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 this report.