Righteous among the Nations

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This article discusses the title in relation to the Holocaust. See Virtuous pagan for the theological concept and righteous gentile for the concept in historical Judaism.

Righteous among the Nations (Hebrew: חסידי אומות העולם‎, khassidey umot ha-olam "righteous (plural) of the world's nations") is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

The term originates with the concept of "righteous gentiles," a term used in rabbinical Judaism to refer to non-Jews, as ger toshav and ger zedek, who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah.



Righteous Medal
Righteous Diploma

When Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by the Knesset, one of its tasks was to commemorate the "Righteous among the Nations". The Righteous were defined as non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Since 1963, a commission headed by a justice of the Supreme Court of Israel has been charged with the duty of awarding the honorary title "Righteous among the Nations". The commission is guided in its work by certain criteria and meticulously studies all documentation, including evidence by survivors and other eyewitnesses; evaluates the historical circumstances and the element of risk to the rescuer; and then decides if the case accords with the criteria.

To be recognized as "Righteous", a person has to fulfill several criteria:[1]

A person who is recognized as "Righteous among the Nations" for having taken risks to help Jews during the Holocaust is awarded a medal in his/her name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of having the name added to those on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. (The last is in lieu of a tree planting, which was discontinued for lack of space.) The awards are distributed to the rescuers or their next-of-kin during ceremonies in Israel, or in their countries of residence through the offices of Israel's diplomatic representatives. These ceremonies are attended by local government representatives and are given wide media coverage.

The Yad Vashem Law also authorizes Yad Vashem "to confer honorary citizenship upon the Righteous among the Nations, and if they have passed away, the commemorative citizenship of the State of Israel, in recognition of their actions." Anyone who has been recognized as Righteous among the Nations is entitled to apply to Yad Vashem for the certificate. If the Righteous among the Nations is no longer alive, their next of kin is entitled to request that commemorative citizenship be conferred on the Righteous among the Nations who has died. Recipients who choose to live in the state of Israel are entitled to a pension equal to the average national wage and free health care, as well as assistance with housing and nursing care.

As of 1 January 2012, 24,356[2] men and women from 45 countries[3] have been recognized as Righteous among the Nations, representing over 10,000 authenticated rescue stories. Yad Vashem's policy is to pursue the program for as long as petitions for this title are received and are supported by solid evidence that meets the criteria.

Righteous Among the Nations by country and ethnic origin as of January 1, 2012

These figures are not necessarily an indication of the actual number of Jews saved in each country, but reflect material on rescue operations made available to Yad Vashem.[2] See List of Righteous among the Nations by country for names of individuals.

Country of originAwardsNotes
 Poland6,339Including Irena Sendler - Polish social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Żegota resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II. She saved 2,500 Jewish children.

Leopold "Poldek" Socha, a sewer inspector, hid a group of Jews in a remote corner of the Lvov sewers. He began doing this for money but as the Nazi atrocities increased and he became more and more attached to his charges, the money became unimportant. His incredible story is told in the film In Darkness, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2012. In the film, Socha is played by the renowned Polish stage actor Robert Wieckiewicz.

In German-occupied Poland, all household members were punished by death if a Jew was found concealed in their home or property. Death was a punishment for providing any aid to a Jew, including giving bread or water to passing Jews. This was the most severe law enforced by the German Nazis in occupied Europe.[4][5] See Polish Righteous among the Nations

 Netherlands5,204Includes two persons originally from Indonesia residing in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, people hiding Jews would usually be punished by either being sent to concentration camps or by being shot (usually after a "trial"). Includes Corrie ten Boom.
 France3,513In January 2007, French President Jacques Chirac and other dignitaries honored France's Righteous among the Nations in a ceremony at the Panthéon, Paris. The Legion of Honor was awarded to 160 French Righteous among the Nations for their efforts saving French Jews during World War II.[6]
 Ukraine2,402Klymentiy Sheptytsky, the Archimandrite of the Studite monks of Greek-Catholic Monastery in 1995, Daniil Tymchina, hieromonk of the Univ Lavra in 2008, Stepan Omelianiuk in 1982.
 Belgium1,612Including Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, née Duchess in Bavaria.
 Lithuania831See Lithuanian Righteous among the Nations, Kazys Binkis, Ona Šimaitė.
 Hungary791Zoltan Bay, physicist; father of radar-astronomy, Béla Király, Géza Ottlik author, Endre Szervánszky composer. In 2007: Paulina Kolonits and her daughters Ilona Kolonits, documentary film director (aged 17 she saved over 40 Jewish children from the Budapest ghetto), Margit Vámos and Paola Ördög (amongst the people they saved was the young Erzsébet Garai, later Director of the Hungarian Film Institute).
 Italy524Including Laura and Constantino Bulgari,[7] Lorenzo Perrone[8], Francesco Repetto and Giorgio Perlasca
 Germany510Including Oskar Schindler, the businessman who saved over a thousand Jews by employing them in his factory; and Hans and Sophie Scholl, sibling members of the White Rose resistance movement; Captain Gustav Schröder who commanded the "Voyage of the Damned"; German army officers Wilm Hosenfeld and Heinz Drossel; German army Major Karl Plagge; resistance fighter Hans von Dohnanyi, and writer Armin Wegner.
 Greece313Including Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens and Princess Alice of Battenberg.
 Latvia132Including Jānis Lipke.
 Serbia131Including Aleksandar Petrović, Vidosava Petrović Milenković, Very Rev. Svetozar Milenković.
 Czech Republic118Victor Kugler one of the Anne Frank helpers.
 Austria90Irene Harand, Florian Tschögl
 Albania69Atif & Ganimet Toptani
 Romania60Including Prince Constantin Karadja, credited by Yad Vashem with saving over 51,000 Jews.[9]
 Norway47See Norwegian Righteous among the Nations. The Norwegian Underground is listed as one group.
 Switzerland45Includes Carl Lutz, who helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina40
 Denmark22As per their request, members of the Danish Underground who participated in the rescue of the Danish Jews are listed as one group.
 Bulgaria20Dimitar Peshev; Sofia Metropolitan Stefan and Plovdiv Metropolitan Kiril of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
 United Kingdom19This list includes Major Frank Foley, but excludes Sir Nicholas Winton, as he is of Jewish parentage
 Sweden10Including Raoul Wallenberg, Per Anger and Valdemar Langlet
 Macedonia10Including Smiljan Cekada, Boris Altiparmak and Stojan Siljanovski
 Spain6Angel Sanz Briz, José and Carmen Santaella, and Eduardo Propper de Callejón.
 United States3Varian Fry, Martha Sharp, and Waitstill Sharp
 Estonia3Uku Masing and Eha Masing, Polina Lentsman
 Republic of China (Taiwan)2Pan Jun Shun and Feng-Shan Ho (provided approximately 2000 visas to Jews in needed during his tenure as ambassador of ROC in Austria in 1938).
 Brazil2Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas and Aracy de Carvalho Guimarães Rosa.
 Portugal2Aristides de Sousa Mendes, issued 30,000 visas to people escaping the Nazis. Carlos Sampaio Garrido, sheltered about 1,000 Jews in safe-houses in Budapest and gave them Portuguese documents to leave the country.
 Morocco1Mohammed V of Morocco (former King of Morocco, grandfather of the current king Mohammed VI of Morocco)
 Chile1María Edwards
 El Salvador1José Castellanos Contreras (provided Salvadoran citizenship papers to approximately 13,000 Central European Jews).
 Japan1Chiune Sugihara (provided approximately 3,400 transit visas to Jews in need).
 Ireland1Hugh O'Flaherty
 Georgia1Sergei Metreveli
 Luxembourg1Victor Bodson, (former Justice Minister and Chairman of the Luxembourg House of Representatives; saved approximately 100 Jews)
 Montenegro1Petar Zankovic
 Turkey1Selâhattin Ülkümen
 Vietnam1Paul Nguyen Cong Anh
Total24,356As of 2012[2]


The Righteous among the Nations are honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on July 16.

See also


  1. ^ Gunnar S. Paulsson, “The Rescue of Jews by Non-Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland,” published in The Journal of Holocaust Education, volume 7, nos. 1 & 2 (summer/autumn 1998): pp.19–44. Reprinted in “Collective Rescue Efforts of the Poles,” p. 256
  2. ^ a b c "About the Righteous - Statistics". Yad Vashem. 2012-01-01. http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/statistics.asp. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  3. ^ "First Arab Nominated for Holocaust Honor". Associated Press. 2007-01-30. http://palestinianpundit.blogspot.com/2007/01/first-arab-nominated-for-holocaust.html. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  4. ^ "Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project - Poland". isurvived.org. http://isurvived.org/Frameset4References-3/-PolishRighteous.html. 
  5. ^ Robert Cherry, Annamaria Orla-Bukowska (2007). Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 5. ISBN 0-7425-4666-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=vkLTSB7NHwgC&pg=PA5&dq=%22Armia+Krajowa%22+largest&lr=&as_brr=3&ei=dscASPzyLZjWyASY5pi1DA&sig=nedPlTyt1ENbsExRcqoi_ZeaIbI. 
  6. ^ "Jacques Chirac Honors French World War II Saviors". European Jewish Congress. April 11, 2007. http://www.eurojewcong.org/ejc/news.php?id_article=794. .Includes Johan Weidner, head of Dutch-Paris Underground who's organization saved over 800 Jews and over 100 aillied airmen.
  7. ^ Israel Gutman, Bracha Rivlin e Liliana Picciotto, I giusti d'Italia: i non ebrei che salvarono gli ebrei, 1943-45 (Mondadori: Milano 2006), pp.75-76.
  8. ^ "Flickers of Light: Lorenzo Perrone". Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. http://www1.yadvashem.org/exhibitions/Flickers_of_Light/lorenzo_perrone.asp. Retrieved 10 July 2009. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Minutes of the Sub-Commission for the Recognition of the "Righteous Among the Nations"" (in German). Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 18 April 2005. http://berlin.mfa.gov.il/mfm/web/main/document.asp?DocumentID=83056&MissionID=88. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 


External links