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]

  • only a Jewish party can put a nomination forward;
  • helping a family member or Jewish person convert to Christianity is not a criterion for recognition;
  • the assistance has to be repeated and/or substantial; and
  • the assistance has to be given without any financial gain expected in return (although covering normal expenses such as rent or food is acceptable).

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.

By country and ethnic origin

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. Current as of January 2012.

Country of origin Awards Notes
 Poland 6,339 Includes Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Żegota resistance organization in Warsaw, saving 2,500 Jewish children; and Leopold "Poldek" Socha, a sewer inspector who hid a group of Jews in a remote corner of the Lvov sewers. See Polish Righteous among the Nations
 Netherlands 5,204 Includes two persons originally from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) residing in the Netherlands. Includes Corrie ten Boom. Includes Frits Philips who ran Philips during the German occupation. Includes Geetruida Wijsmuller-Meyer, who helped save about 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria. Includes Jan Zwartendijk, who as a Dutch consular representative in Kaunas issued exit visa used by 6- to 10,000 Jewish refugees.

Also includes three organisations or collectives: the collective participants of the so-called 'Amsterdam dock strike'(a.k.a. the February-strike, about 30-50,000 people who on Feb. 25 and 26, 1941 launched the first strike against persecution of the Jews in nazi-occupied Europe), the whole village of Nieuwlande (117 inhab.) and the resistance group called 'NV groep' (for saving Jewish children). Per capita (8.8 million in 1940), the Dutch are by far the most awarded people with a ratio of 1 awardee to roughly 1,700 citizens (as of Jan. 1, 2013).

 France 3,513 In 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.[4]
 Ukraine 2,402 Klymentiy 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.
 Belgium 1,612 Including Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, née Duchess in Bavaria.
 Lithuania 831 See Lithuanian Righteous among the Nations, Kazys Binkis, Ona Šimaitė.
 Hungary 791 Zoltan 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).
 Belarus 569
 Slovakia 525
 Italy 524 Including Laura and Constantino Bulgari,[5] Lorenzo Perrone,[6] Francesco Repetto and Giorgio Perlasca
 Germany 510 Including 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.
 Greece 313 Including Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens and Princess Alice of Battenberg.
 Russia 179
 Latvia 132 Including Jānis Lipke.
 Serbia 131 Including Aleksandar Petrović, Vidosava Petrović Milenković, Very Rev. Svetozar Milenković.
 Czech Republic 118 Victor Kugler one of the Anne Frank helpers.
 Croatia 107
 Austria 90 Irene Harand, Florian Tschögl, Kurt Reinhard
 Moldova 79
 Albania 69 Atif & Ganimet Toptani
 Romania 60 Including Prince Constantin Karadja, credited by Yad Vashem with saving over 51,000 Jews.[7]
 Norway 47 See Norwegian Righteous among the Nations. The Norwegian Underground is listed as one group.
 Switzerland 45 Includes Carl Lutz, who helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 40
 Denmark 22 As per their request, members of the Danish Underground who participated in the rescue of the Danish Jews are listed as one group.
 Armenia 21
 Bulgaria 20 Dimitar Peshev; Sofia Metropolitan Stefan and Plovdiv Metropolitan Kiril of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
 United Kingdom 19 This list includes Major Frank Foley, but excludes Sir Nicholas Winton, as he is of Jewish parentage
 Sweden 10 Including Raoul Wallenberg, Per Anger and Valdemar Langlet
 Macedonia 10 Including Smiljan Cekada, Boris Altiparmak and Stojan Siljanovski
 Slovenia 6
 Spain 6 Angel Sanz Briz, José and Carmen Santaella, and Eduardo Propper de Callejón.
 Turkey 3 Selâhattin Ülkümen, Necdet Kent, and Namık Kemal Yolga
 United States 3 Varian Fry, Martha Sharp, and Waitstill Sharp
 Estonia 3 Uku Masing and Eha Masing, Polina Lentsman
 Republic of China (Taiwan) 2 Pan 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).
 Brazil 2 Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas and Aracy de Carvalho Guimarães Rosa.
 Portugal 2 Aristides 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.
 Mexico 1 Gilberto Bosques Saldívar (former Consul in Nazi-occupied France)
 Chile 1 María Edwards
 El Salvador 1 José Castellanos Contreras (provided Salvadoran citizenship papers to approximately 13,000 Central European Jews).
 Japan 1 Chiune Sugihara (provided approximately 3,400 transit visas to Jews in need).
 Ireland 1 Hugh O'Flaherty
 Georgia 1 Sergei Metreveli
 Luxembourg 1 Victor Bodson, (former Justice Minister and Chairman of the Luxembourg House of Representatives; saved approximately 100 Jews)
 Montenegro 1 Petar Zankovic
 Vietnam 1 Paul Nguyen Cong Anh
Total 24,358 As 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.

In Israel

At least 130 righteous gentiles have settled in Israel. They were welcomed by Israeli authorities, and were granted citizenship. In the mid-1980s, they became entitled to special pensions. Some of them settled in British Mandatory Palestine before Israel's establishment shortly after World War II, or in the early years of the new state of Israel, while others came later. The ones who came in the early days came to speak fluent Hebrew and integrated into Israeli society.[8]

See also

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  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. ^ "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 whose organization saved over 800 Jews and over 100 allied airmen.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "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]
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ http://forward.com/articles/143987/righteous-moved-to-israel-after-saving-jews-in-hol/


  • The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage, Mark Klempner, ISBN 0-8298-1699-2, The Pilgrim Press
  • Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust: Genocide and Moral Obligation, David P. Gushee, ISBN 1-55778-821-9, Paragon House Publishers
  • The Lexicon of the Righteous Among the Nations, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. (volumes: Poland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Europe I, Europe II)
  • To Save a Life: Stories of Holocaust Rescue, Land-Weber, Ellen, ISBN 0-252-02515-6, University of Illinois Press
  • The Seven Laws of Noah, Lichtenstein, Aaron, New York: The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press, 1981.
  • The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism, Novak, David, ISBN 0-88946-975-X, New York and Toronto: Edwin Mellen Press, 1983.
  • The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, Paldiel, Mordecai, ISBN 0-88125-376-6, KTAV Publishing House, Inc.
  • Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands, Robert Satloff, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, (PublicAffairs, 2006) ISBN 1-58648-399-4
  • When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland, Tec, Nechama, ISBN 0-19-505194-7, Oxford University Press
  • Zegota: The Council to Aid Jews in Occupied Poland 1942-1945, Tomaszewski, Irene & Werblowski, Tecia, ISBN 1-896881-15-7, Price-Patterson
  • Tolerance in Judaism: The Medieval and Modern Sources, Zuesse, Evan M., In: The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, edited by J. Neusner, A. Avery-Peck, and W.S. Green, Second Edition, ISBN 90-04-14787-X, Leiden: Brill, 2005, Vol. IV: 2688-2713
  • When Courage Was Stronger Than Fear: Remarkable Stories of Christians Who Saved Jews from the Holocaust by Peter Hellman. 2nd edition, ISBN 1-56924-663-7, Marlowe & Companym, 1999
  • Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis, Subak, Susan Elisabeth, University of Nebraska Press, 342 pp., 2010.

External links