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Relatives of Egyptian doctor refuse prestigious Israeli award

The family of an Egyptian doctor who hid Jews in Germany during the Second World War has refused a posthumous award from Israel. Relatives of Mohamed Helmy, who died in Berlin in 1982, said that if it was being offered by any other country they would have accepted it.


A report in the Israeli media said that Dr Helmy was honoured by the Yad Vashim Holocaust Memorial last month as “Righteous Among the Nations”, the highest award given to non-Jews who risked their own lives to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution. The memorial said that it had been unable to find any living relatives to present the award in a special ceremony so it has asked the authorities in Egypt to find them.

However, Associated Press tracked down three living members of the family in Cairo. Speaking on behalf of the rest of the family, Mervat Hassan said that they would not accept the award from Israel, despite its peace treaty with Egypt.

“I respect Judaism as a religion,” she told AP, “and I respect Jews. Islam recognises Judaism as a revealed faith.” Dr Helmy, she said, didn’t treat people according to their race or nationality, but “treated everyone the same, regardless of their background”.

Mohamed Helmy was born in Sudan in 1901 to an Egyptian father and a German mother. He went to live in Berlin in 1922 and worked as a doctor until 1938, when the German authorities cancelled his licence.

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