Dr. Mohamed Helmy was an Egyptian urologist in Berlin who saved a Jewish family during the Holocaust, at great risk to himself.
Born in Khartoum to Egyptian parents in 1901, Mohamed went to Germany in 1922 to study medicine. After receiving his degree, he started working at a large hospital in Berlin, later becoming head of the urology department.
Mohamed had many Jewish friends among the hospital staff. When the Nazis rose to power in 1933, they started firing Jewish doctors. Mohamed was classified as a non-Aryan, but was able to keep his job for several years, until he too was fired in 1938, and after that arrested and imprisoned for a year.
Mohamed bravely spoke out against Nazism and anti-Jewish persecution. During the large scale deportation of Jews from Berlin in 1942, Mohamed risked his own life to find hiding places for his family friend Anna Boros, age 21, and her family. Mohamed owned a small cabin on the outskirts of Berlin, and he hid Anna there for three years.
Known to be a non-Aryan with Jewish friends, Mohamed was watched closely by the Nazis. He was periodically subjected to interrogations and searches, and during these times Mohamed arranged for Anna to stay with friends of his. He introduced her as his cousin from Dresden, and very few people knew her true identity.
Mohamed also helped Anna’s mother, stepfather and grandmother. He provided them with material and medical support. Mohamed found a hiding place for Anna’s elderly grandmother with Frieda Szturmann, a German woman whose son was away fighting. At one point, Anna also took refuge with Frieda, who shared her meager wartime food rations with the two displaced Jewish women.
Anna Boros and her three relatives survived the war with the help of Dr. Mohamed Helmy and Frieda Szturmann. They never forgot their rescuers, and wrote many letters to the Berlin Senate so they would be honored as heroes. Anna now has seven grandchildren, all of whom owe their lives to Mohamed Helmy.
Dr. Mohamed Helmy stayed in Berlin until his death in 1982. Frieda Szturmann died in 1962. Both were posthumously honored as Righteous Gentiles by Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem. Mohamed is the first Arab to receive this honor.
The State of Israel went to great lengths to track down surviving relatives of Dr. Mohamed Helmy to present them with his award. Finally, some relatives were located in Egypt. Sadly, they refused to accept the Israeli award. “If any other country offered to honor Helmy, we would have been happy with it, but not from Israel,” said Mohamed’s great-niece.
For putting his own life in danger to save Jews, we honor Dr. Mohamed Helmy as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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