Family of Arab doctor honored as Israeli hero won't accept the award
By Mariam Rizk and Kirsten Grieshaber, APCAIRO -- A member of the family of the first Arab honored by Israel for risking his life to save Jews during the Holocaust says the family isn't interested in the recognition.
October 21, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The Egyptian doctor, Mohamed Helmy, was honored posthumously last month by Israel's Holocaust memorial for hiding Jews in Berlin during the Nazis' genocide, but a family member tracked down by The Associated Press this week in Cairo said her relatives wouldn't accept the award, one of Israel's most prestigious.
“If any other country offered to honor Helmy, we would have been happy with it,” Mervat Hassan, the wife of Helmy's great-nephew, told the AP during an interview at her home in Cairo this week.
Mohamed Helmy was an Egyptian doctor who lived in Berlin and hid several Jews during the Holocaust. Last month, he was honored by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as “Righteous Among the Nations” — the highest honor given to a non-Jew for risking great personal dangers to rescue Jews from the Nazis' gas chambers.
On Sunday, the museum criticized the family's decision. “We regret that political sentiment seems to have overcome the human aspect and hope one day that the latter will prevail,” Yad Vashem said in a written statement.
Typically, the museum tries to track down living family members to present the award in a ceremony, but in the case of Helmy, who died in 1982 in Berlin, Yad Vashem said it had not been able to find any living relatives.
With the help of a German historian, the AP obtained the certificate of inheritance of Helmy's wife Emmi, who died in 1998. The document contained the names of three relatives in Cairo, and when contacted by the AP, Hassan agreed to share her memories of Helmy.