Google Doodle is famous for celebrating some of the world’s most famous faces and today they are honoring none other than Dr Mohammed Helmy.
Dr Helmy was among the 25,000 honored by the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, Yad Vashem, in a list of people crowned the ‘Righteous among Nations’.
He has also been lovingly referred to as the ‘Schindler of the surgery room’, and with books dedicated to his story, it makes sense that Google would honor this extraordinary man on his 122nd birthday.
Read on to find out more about Dr. Mohammed Helmy’s incredible sacrifices during World War II.
Dr Mohammed Helmy (pictured) put his life on the line to save the lives of his Jewish friends whilst living in Nazi occupied Berlin
Also known as the ‘Schindler of the surgery room’, Dr Helmy has been honored by Google Doodle on his 122nd birthday.
Who is Dr Mohammed Helmy?
On July 25 1901, Mohammed Helmy was born to a German mother and an Egyptian army major in Khartoum, central Sudan.
In 1922, Mohammed Helmy made the 2,904 mile trip to his mother’s homeland of Germany to study medicine.
Dr Helmy then went on to work at Robert Koch Hospital – also known as Krankenhaus Moabit – in Berlin, after completing his university studies.
The talented doctor quickly progressed to the head of the urology department – a part of medicine that focuses on medical issues that happen in the reproductive organs and urinary tract system.
Unfortunately, Dr. Helmy’s success had a short shelf life, as Adolf Hitler quickly rose to power in 1933, changing life in Germany and the world forever.
What did he witness?
The Robert Koch Hospital was located near one of the biggest synagogues in Berlin and Dr Helmy was a first hand witness to many of his colleagues, who were Jewish, being dismissed, as Hitler plagued Germany with anti-anti-Semitism.
Storm-troopers raided the Robert Koch hospital, taking Jewish doctors to a basement where they were severely physically abused.
The Jewish doctors who did not die from the beatings, were never to be seen at work again.
Dr. Helmy was not subjected to this abuse because he was not Jewish and was shortly thereafter promoted to run a department of Nazi surgeons.
However, Dr Helmy’s promotion was short lived, because according to divisive Nazi racial laws he was a ‘Hamite’.
The now outdated term was used to describe people from North or the Horn of Africa and when Nazi’s infested Germany, they suffered persecution and harassment.
Although Dr Helmy was not a Jew, he was not privy to the privileges experienced by those categorized as ‘Aryan’ by backwards Nazi legislation.
In 1936, other members of staff banded together to create a petition to stop the talented physician working at the hospital because they thought he was treating Jewish patients outside of work.
He would experience daily abuse, with colleagues shouting ‘Heil Hitler!’ at him in the hospital halls.
But the gifted doctor managed to keep his job for another year, as the Reichstag did not want to create hostility with Egypt – who although was officially neutral during the war, provided facilities for the British during the war.
But in 1938, he was stripped of his medical license and no longer allowed to work at the hospital.
As tensions continued to rise in Germany, Mohammed Helmy was no longer allowed to marry his German fiancee, Emmi Ernst, because of his race.
He was also barred from practicing medicine but this did not stop him, as he opened his own practice and continued under the radar.
What happened to Dr. Helmy when WW2 began?
As war broke out across Europe, chaos ensued in Germany and in October 1939 Arabic people across Germany, Austria and Poland were sent to Wülzburg camp in Southeast Germany near Nuremberg.
This included Dr Helmy, who was arrested on October 3 1939 and sent to Wülzburg for four weeks.
In December 1939, he alongside other Egyptians were let out, but the sweet taste of freedom was not experienced for long, as Reich Leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered for all Egyptian men between 18 and 60 to be arrested, and Dr. Helmy was jailed for a second time.
Dr Helmy was the first Arabic person to be awarded the title ‘Righteous Among Nations’ by the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, Yad Vashem
The incredible story of Anna & Dr. Helmy
After his second release from Wülzburg in June 1941, he worked for Dr. Johannes Wedekind in Charlottenburg, Berlin.
At this practice, he began to write sick notes in a bid to help foreign workers go back home and avoid conscription into the German army.
But the selfless doctor did not stop here and when Berlin began to deport Jews, he put his own life on the line to save his friends’, as detailed in the book about his life. carefully pieced together by Ronen Steinke, titled Anna & Dr Helmy.
Dr. Helmy bravely spoke against antisemitic Nazi policies and gave his Jewish friend, Anna Boros (now Gutman) a place to hide in his cabin in the Buch area of Berlin.
The doctor would move Anna during police investigations so she would not be deported to a concentration camp.
Post-war Anna Boros wrote: ‘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 generosity of his heart and I will be grateful to him for eternity.’
Anna was not the only person Dr Helmy sacrificed his own safety for, as he also helped her step father Gerog Wehr, her mother Julie, and grandmother Cecilie Rudnik.
He provided for the family of four and helped them with any medical issues that arose.
Anna’s grandmother, Cecilie Rudnik, was later moved by Dr. Helmy to his friend’s Frieda Szturmann’s home, to share rations and hide.
Thanks to Ms Szturmann and Dr Helmy, the family of four survived the horrors of the Holocaust and later went on to live in the US post-war.
Dr Helmy was finally able to marry Emmi Ernst and lived out the rest of his life in Berlin
His lasting impact
Dr Helmy died at the age of 80, on January 10, 1982 in Berlin and is remembered for his heroic efforts during Nazi occupied Germany.
He was the first Arab person to be awarded the title ‘Righteous Among Nations’ by the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, Yad Vashem.
The medal and certificate was displayed at the Exhibitions Pavilion on the Mount of Remembrance – Mount Herzl, Jerusalem – in an exhibition titled ‘I Am My Brothers Keeper’, as the Holocaust memorial and Egyptian embassy continued their efforts to find his next of kin.
Happy 122nd birthday to Dr Mohammed Helmy.
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