Righteous among the peoples

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Righteous Among the Nations ( Hebrew חסיד אומות העולם Hasid Umot ha-Olam ) is an honorary title introduced in Israel after the founding of the state in 1948 for non-Jewish individuals who committed their lives under National Socialist rule during the Second World War to save Jews from murder.

Biblical-Jewish background

The expression comes from the ancient tradition of Judaism . The following sentence can be found in the Talmud :

"The righteous of the peoples have a place in the world to come."

This view is based on specifically biblical theology : According to the exilic- post- exilic prophecy of Deutero-Isaiah , goyim (members of peoples of other faiths) should receive a share in the coming kingdom of God if they recognized the unity of YHWH , the God of Israel, and his most important instructions ( Torah ). Subsequently, since the beginning of the occidental era, Jews have been using the expression good, God - fearing non-Jews . These "God-fearing" were issued the observance of all 613 commandments and prohibitions of the Torah and its oral interpretations, which were collected in the Mishnah and Gemara . Instead, these gentiles should only follow the broader ethical principles found in the Noachidian Commandments .

Establishment of the honor

After the crimes of National Socialism , especially the Holocaust against the Jews, became known around the world , the opinion gradually gained acceptance in Israel that people should also be remembered who did not take the fate of the Jews indifferently at the time, but attacked them in a variety of ways tried to help and took personal risks and disadvantages. Nevertheless, one saw in the behavior of these relatively few individuals examples of what many other contemporaries of the Holocaust would have been able to do in terms of help for the Jews if they had viewed this as a personal obligation. These examples were just as wanted to be passed on to posterity as the crimes.

In 1953, the Knesset passed the Law on the Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes , under the implementing provisions of which the Yad Vashem Memorial was commissioned to set up a memorial department for the "Righteous of the Nations" who "risked their lives to save Jews." Since 1963, a public commission under the auspices of Yad Vashem has taken on the task of examining proposed persons according to certain criteria and, if necessary, recognizing them as “Righteous Among the Nations”. It consists of personalities known in Israel who are often Holocaust survivors themselves and hold or held state or political offices. The presiding judge is a judge at the Supreme Court of Israel; this was Moshe Landau first .

Selection criteria

Although the state law of Israel did not clearly define the term, the hurdles for being honored as "Righteous Among the Nations" are high. The four main criteria for recognition are:

  • a concrete and reliably attested rescue operation for Jews or participation in one
  • verifiably incurred personal risk
  • no request for consideration for the assistance provided
  • gentile descent.

Therefore, people who risked their lives but had demanded payment from the rescued Jews were excluded from the honor. In cases of diplomatic immunity of the helper, the examination board pays attention to the exact individual circumstances of his rescue operation.

The honorary title is awarded on the basis of clear documents that Yad Vashem and - if they still exist - survivors of the Holocaust and other contemporary witnesses presented orally or in writing. Authentic documents from European archives that confirm the events described by survivors are often obtained and approved.


Yad Vashem's mandate extends to all reliably documented rescue operations as long as the Commission is aware of them. It does not claim to identify all rescuers and rescued Jews during the Nazi era. Because this is historically impossible for several reasons:

  • Both Holocaust survivors and rescuers have often died.
  • The rest are scattered around the world.
  • An unknown number of rescued Jews and rescuers preferred to remain anonymous after the war.
  • A further number of those who were rescued died during the war, so that they are unable to act as witnesses.
  • Some of the rescuers died while attempting to rescue or afterwards.
  • Some survivors did not provide Yad Vashem with the exact details of their rescue, so that investigation of the case was not possible.
  • Many rescuers from the former Eastern Bloc were not known because their states had severed relations with Israel so that the rescued could not inform Yad Vashem.
  • Collective rescue operations like that of the Danes in September and October 1943 were only recognized as examples for a few particularly prominent persons.
  • In many borderline cases, the criterion “endangering one's own life” is difficult to determine: for example, where a rescuer as a diplomat or administrative officer enjoyed special state protection from criminal prosecution. In principle, however, rescuing Jews under the Nazi regime was always life-threatening, so that Yad Vashem interpreted this criterion broadly in the rulings in the sense of endangering his own position.
  • Jews who have converted to Christianity and their direct descendants cannot be honored either (e.g. Nicholas Winton or Berthold Storfer ).

In Germany, people who helped Jews go into hiding between 1938 and 1945 and saved them from deportation or who attempted to do so are often called Jewish rescuers or Jewish helpers. For many of them no application for recognition as Righteous Among the Nations has been made.


Certificate from 2000 for Albert Bedane (1893–1980) from the island of Jersey
Entrance to the “Garden of the Righteous” at the Yad Vashem Memorial

A person who is honored as Righteous Among the Nations receives a specially embossed medal with their name and a quote from the Sanhedrin mixed natractic :

"Whoever saves a human life has saved a whole world, as it were."

In addition, the honored person receives a certificate of honor and the honor that their name will be posted on the Wall of Honor (" Wall of Honor ") in the Garden of the Righteous in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem . Furthermore, everyone so honored may plant a tree on the "avenue of the righteous" on the "mountain of memory" ( Hazikaron ) in Jerusalem. However, this is currently rarely used due to lack of space.

The honor is bestowed on the honorees or their closest relatives in a solemn ceremony in Israel or in their home country by the embassies and the Israeli representatives there. Most of these honors receive a lot of attention in the media.

Yad Vashem is authorized by the Yad Vashem Law to “ grant honorary citizenship to the Righteous Among the Nations and, when they are no longer alive, to guarantee them an eternal memory of their deeds in the State of Israel.” Everyone so honored is called to request this certificate from Yad Vashem. If he is no longer alive, his descendants will be granted this right. Yad Vashem's task is to continue the program as long as petitions are received for this title and meet the criteria for the award.

A Righteous Among the Nations receives a monthly honorary fee equal to the average wage. In addition, he and his spouse are paid a civil service convalescence allowance. Health services under the National Health Insurance Act are provided free of charge. A Righteous Among the Nations, who is suffering economic hardship, wherever he lives, receives from the in New York established for this purpose the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous a support. The Anne Frank Fund in Basel provides medical support.

The righteous who live in Israel receive a state pension. Israel offers a home to 57 surviving Righteous Among the Nations who saved Jews and who emigrated after the Second World War to live alone or with their families. ATZUM ensures that their basic needs are satisfied, insofar as this is not covered by the Israeli social welfare system (NII), that they are visited by Israeli adopted grandchildren and by professional helpers and that they offer geriatric , dental and other help.

Number of “righteous” according to nationality

As of January 2019, 27,362 people, including their family members, who together helped Jews to survive, were wearing the honorary designation. They stand for over 8,000 authentic reports of a rescue.

(As of January 1, 2019)

Poland 6,992 Austrian 110 Portuguese 3
Dutch 5,778 Moldovans 79 Chinese 2
French people 4,099 Albanians 75 Brazilian 2
Ukrainians 2,634 Norwegian 67 Indonesian 2
Belgian 1,750 Romanians 66 Chileans 2
Lithuanians 904 Swiss 49 Luxembourger 2
Hungary 867 Bosnians 47 Peruvian 2
Italian 714 Armenians 24 Georgians 1
Belarusians 660 Danes ¹ 22nd Japanese 1
German 627 British 22nd Irish 1
Slovaks 602 Bulgarians 20th Montenegrins 1
Greeks 355 Slovenes 15th Cubans 1
Russians 209 North Macedonians 10 Turks 1
Serbs 139 Sweden 10 Vietnamese 1
Latvians 138 Spaniards 9 Salvadorans 1
Czechs 118 Americans 5 Egyptians 1
Croatians 118 Estonians 3 Ecuadorians 1
Total: 27,362 Righteous Among the Nations

At her request, the members of the Danish underground who helped save the Jewish community were counted as one group as a whole.

See also


  • Lexicon of the Righteous Among the Nations: Germans and Austrians. Edited by Israel Gutman et al. Wallstein Vlg, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-89244-900-7 .
  • Alexander Bronowski: There were so few. Savior in the Holocaust. (1991) Hänssler, Holzgerlingen 2002, ISBN 3-7751-3811-0 .
  • Philip Friedman : Their Brothers' Keepers. (1st edition 1957) Unites States Holocaust, Reissue 1991, ISBN 0-89604-002-X .
  • Anton Maria Keim (ed.), Benyamin Z. Barslai: Yad Vashem: Die Judenretter aus Deutschland. Matthias-Grünewald, 2nd edition, 1984, ISBN 3-7867-1085-6 .
  • Carol Rittner, RSM, Sondra Meyers: The Courage to Care: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. New York University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8147-7397-4 .
  • Herbert Straeten: Other Germans under Hitler. v.Hase & Köhler Verlag, Mainz 1997, ISBN 3-7758-1362-4 .
  • Nechama Tec : When light pierced the darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland. Oxford University Press Inc, USA 1986, ISBN 0-19-503643-3 .
  • Erika Weinzierl : Too few righteous people. Austrians and persecution of Jews 1938–1945. Verlag Styria, Graz 1997, ISBN 3-222-11626-1 .
  • Wolfram Wette (Ed.): Rescuers in Uniform. Scope of action in the Wehrmacht's war of extermination. Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-596-15221-6 .
  • Wolfram Wette (Ed.): Civil courage. Outraged, helpers and rescuers from the Wehrmacht, police and SS. Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-596-15852-4 .
  • Wolfram Wette (Ed.): Silent Heroes. Rescuer of Jews in the border triangle during the Second World War. Herder-Taschenbuch, Freiburg 2005, ISBN 3-451-05461-2 .
  • Robert B. Satloff: Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach Into Arab Lands. Public Affairs, US, 2006, ISBN 1-58648-399-4 . (English, describes Arab rescuers of the Jews who have not been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.)

Web links

Commons : Righteous Among the Nations  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Righteous Among the Nations  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. FAQ on the Yad Vashem program
  2. Article Righteous Among the Nations in: Enzyklopädie des Holocaust , Ed. Israel Gutman, Piper, Munich 1998, Volume I, p. 519.
  3. Article Righteous Among the Nations , Encyclopedia of the Holocaust 1998, p. 520.
  4. ^ Yad Vashem: Righteous Among the Nations - Statistics.Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  5. Pierre May from Luxembourg is mistakenly listed as Belgian in Yad Vashem (see Die Warte, November 10th, 2016, page 2 article by Bodo Bost)