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First Egyptian Honoured as Righteous Among Nations

Dr. Mohamed Helmy, working in the heart of Nazi Germany, risked his life to save a Jewish family

By: Graham Sigurdson
Published: September 30th, 2013 in News » World
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial

On Monday, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial honored its first Egyptian as Righteous Among Nations for saving a Jewish family in the heart of Nazi Germany.

Dr. Mohamed Helmy, who trained in Berlin, has been credited with saving then 21-year-old Anna Boros Gutman and her family, starting in 1942. During a large wave of Jewish deportation, Helmy hid Gutman in a cabin in Berlin-Buch until almost the end of the war.

Gutman’s parents and grandmother were hidden elsewhere.

Following the war, Gutman wrote that "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… 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."

Times of Israel reports that Helmy worked with Fried Szturmann, a local woman, also honored as Righteous Among Nations. Gutman’s mother Julie, stepfather Georg Wehr, and grandmother Cecile Rudnik were all taken care of and treated medically by Helmy, while Rudnik was hidden and fed by Szturmann. In 1944, the Wehrs were caught and revealed who was hiding Anna. Helmy avoided punishment, bringing her to Szturmann’s home for hiding.

Helmy was born in 1901 to Egyptian parents in Khartoum. Beginning in 1922, he studied medicine in Germany, settling in Berlin and working at the Robert Koch Institute. In 1937 he was dismissed, no doubt due to the Institute’s involvement with Nazi medical policy. Under Nazi racial classification, Helmy was declared a "Hamit" or "Hamitic" (which meant the descendants of Ham, son of Noah), also used to described other natives of North Africa. Much like the Jews, Helmy was forbidden from working in public medicine, and from marrying his German fiancee. They eventually married after WWII.

He died in Berlin in 1982.

Helmy was arrested in 1939 and released in 1940. He continued to put himself into danger by aiding his Jewish friends. Gutman spoke highly of Helmy in her writing, saying that "Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for eternity."

Until such a time that Yad Vashem can locate Helmy’s next of kin and honour him in a posthumous ceremony, the certificate and medal will be on display in the "I Am My Brother’s Keeper: 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nations" Exhibition at Yad Vashem.

Related articles: Yad Vashem, Righteous Gentile, Nazis, Israel News, Jewish News, Mohamed Helmy
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