Yad Vashem Honors Its First Arab Righteous Gentile

Oct. 25 2017

In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Mohamed Helmy as belonging to the Righteous among the Nations for hiding a Jewish family friend in his Berlin home for the duration of World War II. Helmy died in 1982 and had no children, but Yad Vashem managed to track down some of his relatives—who refused to accept a certificate and medal on his behalf, due to their hostility toward Israel. But now Helmy’s nephew has come forward to receive the honors due his uncle, the first Arab ever to be so recognized. Ofer Aderet writes:

Helmy was born in Khartoum in 1901, in what was then Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He went to Germany to study medicine in 1922, settling in Berlin. After completing his studies, he was hired by the Robert Koch Institute in the city, where he eventually became head of urology. Helmy saw Jewish doctors fired from the hospital in 1933, after the Nazis came to power, and was himself fired in 1937 [on “racial” grounds]. A 2009 study by the institute showed that it was heavily involved in Nazi medical policy. . . .

When the Nazis began deporting Jews from Berlin, [Helmy] hid Anna Boros, twenty-one-years-old and a family friend, in his cabin in the city’s Buch neighborhood. She remained there for the duration of the war. Whenever Helmy was under police investigation, he would arrange for her to hide elsewhere. Anna lived as a Muslim under an assumed name, wore a hijab, and even married a Muslim in a fictitious marriage. . . .

Helmy also helped [Anna’s] mother Julie, stepfather Georg Wehr, and grandmother Cecilie Rudnik. Providing for them and attending to all their medical needs, he arranged for Rudnik to be hidden in the home of a German woman, Frieda Szturmann, who was herself later recognized as Righteous among the Nations. For over a year, Szturmann hid Rudnik, sharing her meager food rations.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Muslim-Jewish relations, Righteous Among the Nations, Yad Vashem


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy