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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, Chassidey Umot HaOlam, more literally: righteous men of the world's nations, also translated as "Righteous Gentiles") is 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 Judaism to refer to non-Jews 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 convert to Christianity does not count;
  • 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 are 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 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 2009, 22,765[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, 2008

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. See List of Righteous among the Nations by country for names of individuals.

Country of origin Awards Notes
Poland 6,135 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
Netherlands 4,947 Includes 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").
France 2,991 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.[6]
Ukraine 2,246
Belgium 1,476 Including Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, née Duchess in Bavaria.
Lithuania 761
Hungary 703
Belarus 587
Slovakia 478
Germany 455 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 Schroeder who commanded the "Voyage of the Damned"; and German army officer Wilm Hosenfeld.
Italy 442 Including Laura and Constantino Bulgari[7] , Lorenzo Perrone, [8] and Giorgio Perlasca
Greece 279 Including Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens and Princess Alice of Battenberg.
Serbia 127
Russia 124
Czech Republic 118
Croatia 106 See Croatian Righteous Among the Nations
Latvia 111
Austria 85 Irene Harand
Moldova 73
Albania 63 Toptani, Atif & Ganimet
Romania 54 Including Prince Constantin Karadja, credited by Yad Vashem with saving over 51,000 Jews.[9]
Norway 42 See Norwegian Righteous among the Nations
Switzerland 44 Includes Carl Lutz, who helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
Bosnia 35 Bosnia only; the source does not count Herzegovina
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.
Bulgaria 18 Dimitar Peshev
United Kingdom 14 This list includes Major Frank Foley, but excludes Sir Nicholas Winton, as he is of Jewish parentage
Republic of Macedonia 10
Armenia 10
Sweden 9 Including Raoul Wallenberg, Per Anger and Valdemar Langlet
Slovenia 6
Spain 4 Angel Sanz Briz, José Santaella, Carme Santaella and Eduardo Propper de Callejón.
Estonia 3 Uku Masing and Eha Masing, Polina Lentsman
United States 3 Varian Fry, Martha Sharp, and Waitstill Sharp
Ireland 3 Hugh O'Flaherty
China, Republic of 2 Pan Jun Shun and Feng-Shan Ho
Brazil 2 Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas and Aracy de Carvalho Guimarães Rosa.
Chile 2 María Edwards
Turkey 1 Selâhattin Ülkümen
Japan 1 Chiune Sugihara (provided approximately 3,400 transit visas to Jews in need).[10]
Luxembourg 1 Victor Bodson, (former Justice Minister and Chairman of the Luxembourg House of Representatives; saved approximately 100 Jews)
Portugal 1 Aristides de Sousa Mendes, issued thousands of visas in order to allow 30,000 people to escape the Nazis.
Georgia 1 Sergei Metreveli
Total 22,211 As of January 1, 2008[11]

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. ^
  3. ^ "First Arab Nominated for Holocaust Honor". Associated Press. 2007-01-30. Retrieved 2007-02-01.  
  4. ^ Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project: Poland
  5. ^ Robert Cherry, Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, ISBN 0742546667, Google Print, p.5
  6. ^ Jacques Chirac Honors French World War II Saviors, European Jewish Congress, April 11, 2007.
  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. Retrieved 10 July 2009.  
  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. Retrieved 2009-06-10.  
  10. ^ Levine, Hillel (1996). In Search of Sugihara: The Elusive Japanese Dipolomat Who Risked his Life to Rescue 10,000 Jews From the Holocaust. Free Press. ISBN 0684832518.  
  11. ^ The Righteous among the Nations, Yad Vashem


  • 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 1586483994
  • 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

External links


Simple English

The Righteous Among the Nations award is given by the Jewish people of Israel to people who helped Jewish men and women survive the Holocaust. It has been given to Oskar Schindler and Corrie ten Boom and many others for helping the innocent victims of the Holocaust.


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