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The Arab who rescued Jews from the Holocaust

Image of Jewish people during the Holocaust [arabi21]
Jewish people during the Holocaust [Arabi21]

Mohamed Helmy is an Egyptian doctor who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis during the Holocaust, Almasdar news website revealed yesterday.

Helmy is thought to be the first Arab to be recognised as “a supporter of the Jewish people”. This is because he saved a Jewish family during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

In 2013, Helmy was honoured by Israel’s Yad Vashem Museum as “Righteous Among the Nations”, but his family weren’t interested in the award because it was given by Israel. Mervat Hassan, the wife of Helmy’s great-nephew, said:

If any other country offered to honour Helmy, we would have been happy with it, but not from Israel. I do, however, respect Judaism as a religion, and I respect Jews. Islam recognises Judaism as a heavenly religion.

According to the website, Helmy’s story remained unknown for many years, but letters sent by a young Jewish woman to the Bundestag in Berlin in the 1950s and 1960s were found recently. She told the story of the Arab doctor who saved her life and the lives of her family after they were discovered by the Nazis.

Born in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1901 to Egyptian parents, Helmy travelled to Germany to study medicine in 1922 and lived in Berlin thereafter.

After completing his studies, he worked as an assistant in a hospital named after Robert Koch and received great recognition from his superiors.

However, as Helmy was considered Hamitic and not part of the Aryan race his professional progress was hindered. Additionally, his critical positions towards the Nazi rulers reached the ears of the Gestapo, the secret state police in Nazi Germany. In 1937, he was dismissed from his job in the hospital and was banned from working in any hospital for a year and even banned from marrying his German fiancé.

Image of Dr Mohamed Helmy and his family [arabi21]

Image of Dr Mohamed Helmy and his family [arabi21]

In 1939, he was amongst a number of Egyptians who were arrested, but he was released nearly a year later because of his health.

When the Nazis began deporting Jews, 21-year-old Anna Boros, a family friend, needed a place to hide. Helmy offered her a cabin he owned in the Buch neighbourhood in Berlin. It was a safe haven for her until the end of the war.

After the war ended, Anna wrote: “Our family friend, Dr Helmy, hid me in his cabin in Berlin from 10 March 1942 until the end of the war. I had no contact with the outside world since 1942. The Gestapo knew Dr Helmy was our family doctor and they also knew about his cabin in Berlin.”

“Helmy succeeded in avoiding all of their investigations. On many occasions, Dr Helmy would hide me at an acquaintance’s house during times of dangers, and I would pose as his niece from Dresden for several days. After the danger subsided, I would return to the cabin. Everything Dr Helmy did for me stemmed from his kind nature and therefore I express my gratitude for him forever.”

The four members of Anna’s family all survived with the help of Helmy, who remained in Berlin, married his fiancé and passed away in 1982.

Yesterday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Translated from Arabi21, 24 April 2017.

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