Family of Egyptian Doctor Rejects Holocaust Prize

Family of Dr. Mohamed Helmy reject prize from Israeli institution: "If any other country offered we would have been happy with it."

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Illustration: Yad Vashem's Hall of Names
Illustration: Yad Vashem's Hall of Names
Flash 90

The family of the first Egyptian national to be awarded the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center's "Righteous Among the Nations Award" for saving Jews during the Holocaust has turned down the honor.

According to reports, the family of the late Dr. Mohamed Helmy refused the award due to Yad Vashem's status as an Israeli institution.

"If any other country offered to honor Helmy, we would have been happy with it," said Mervat Hassan, the wife of Helmy's great-nephew, to The Associated Press.

Hassan said her great-uncle "was not picking a certain nationality, race or religion to help. He treated patients regardless of who they were."

In a statement to Arutz Sheva on behalf of Yad Vashem, a spokesperson wrote that: “We regret that political sentiment seems to have overcome the human aspect and hope one day that the latter will prevail.”

Helmy, born in Khartoum in 1901 to Egyptian parents, went to Germany in 1922 to study medicine and settled in Berlin. After he completed his studies, he went to work at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, but was dismissed in 1937. Not being of Aryan race, Dr. Helmy was forbidden to work in the public health system; he was also unable to marry his German fiancée.

In 1939 he was arrested together with other Egyptian nationals, but released a year later because of health problems.

Despite his being targeted by the regime, Helmy spoke out against Nazi policies, and notwithstanding the great danger, risked his life and helped his Jewish friends. When the deportations of the Jews from Berlin began, and 21-year old Anna Boros (Gutman after the war), a family friend, was in need of a hiding place, Helmy brought her to a cabin he owned in the Berlin neighborhood of Buch, which became her safe haven until the end of the war.

At times of danger when he was under police investigation, Helmy would arrange for her to hide elsewhere. “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. As of 1942 I no longer had any contact to the outside world. The Gestapo knew that Dr. Helmy was our family physician, and they knew that he owned a cabin in Berlin-Buch,” Anna Gutman wrote after the war.

“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….Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of the generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for eternity."