Selina Nevills
Polish-American Zionist

Righteous among nations: An Egyptian doctor, a Muslima martyr, and a Polish nun

Mohamed Helmy, Sister Cecylia, Noorunisa Inayat Khan
Anna Boros (

While also facing persecution from the Germans for being a descendant of what the Nazis called “Hamites,” Dr. Mohamed Helmy rescued a young Jewish girl named Anna Boros and hid her until the end of the war. Mohamed began looking after Anna in 1938 when she was just 13 years old. After watching the injustice she faced at such a young age, he gave her a job in his office as his assistant and taught her to conduct blood tests and use a microscope. In 1942 Mohamed first hid Anna following a summon from the Gestapo for deportation, bringing her to his fiancee’s house. As deportations of Berlin’s Jews began, Mohamed hid the girl in his cabin in Buch, often arranging for her to go into hiding elsewhere while he was under police investigation.

“Dr. Helmy hid me in his cabin from March 10 until the end of the war. As of 1942 I no longer had any contact with the outside world. The Gestapo knew that Dr. Helmy was our family physician, and they knew that he owned a cabin in Berlin-Buch. He managed to evade all their interrogations. In such cases he would bring me to friends where I would stay for several days, introducing me as his cousin from Dresden. When the danger would pass, I would return to his cabin. Dr. Helmy did everything for me out of the kindness of his heart and I will be grateful to him forever.”

Certificate of Honor to Mohamed Helmy, Yad Vashem

Mohamed began working on a plan to ensure Anna’s permanent safety that included forging papers and pretending to be her father, which would give her official Muslim status rather than Jewish. Anna survived the rest of the war by pretending to be Muslim, up until she was betrayed in 1944 when another Jewish family revealed Mohamed was hiding her. He managed to again, avoid punishment from the police after showing an alleged letter written to him from Anna which stated she was staying with her aunt in Dessau.

In 1960, Anna asked for Helmy, against his wishes, to be honored for being “a wonderful human being,” a statement she made in front of a New York notary. Decades after his death in 1982, Mohamed Helmy was the first Arab to be awarded Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem. The medal that Helmy’s family accepted had been engraved with a very famous Jewish proverb from the Talmud, “Those who save a life save the world.”

Abel “Abba” Kovner (jmuseum)

Cecylia Roszak was one of nuns who helped set up a convent near Vilnius, Lithuania that saved Jews during the Holocaust. Among the Jews she and her sisters rescued was Vilna ghetto survivor and Nakam founder, Abba Kovner.

Unfortunately after the Jews had left and entered the ghettos to establish the resistance, the Vilnius convent was closed, the nuns were dispersed, and Cecylia returned to Poland. Years after the war Kovner learned that some of the sisters who had saved him survived, and he got in contact with the monastery in Krakow and spoke directly with Sister Cecylia. After she identified herself to him, Kovner said he had been trying to contact someone from their community to thank them for saving his life. Sister Cecylia gave him the monastery’s address and weeks later received a package from Israel containing a bronze crucifix with “Jerusalem” engraved at the base.

The sisters of the Grodek Dominican monastery showing recognition of “Righteous among the Nations,” Sister Cecylia stands bottom right (Siostry Dominikanki)

Sister Cecylia passed away in November of 2018, but not before also being recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

Noorunisa Inayat Khan is an Indian princess and World War II secret agent known for her service in the Special Operations Executive. As an SOE spy she became Britain’s first Muslim war heroine and was the first female wireless operator to be sent into German-occupied France to aid the French Resistance.

While in Paris she dispatched coded messages between the American and the French resistance movements and along with her network of spies, were given direct orders from Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze.” After the plan was infiltrated she was directed to return home, but refused and remained the last officer in the most dangerous post in France.

October 1943, she was betrayed to the Germans and interrogated at the SD headquarters in Paris, where she attempted to escape from twice. The former head of the SD, Hans Kieffer would testify that she did not give the Gestapo a single piece of information and was consistently deceitful. She would remain in capture for 10 months, was beaten, starved, and tortured without giving up any intelligence. At 30 years old Noor was transferred to Dachau concentration camp where she was executed by SS men with a shot through the back of the neck. She used her last breath to announce “Liberty.”

About the Author
Anglo-Polish American Zionist from Lansing, MI blogging about Jews and the Middle East.
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