Historical & Legal Classification
The primary purpose of the law that established Yad Vashem was to
create a memorial to commemorate and perpetuate the memory of the
six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Yet, an additional
stipulation in the law required Yad Vashem to honor "the Righteous
Among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews."
Who is considered a "Righteous Among the Nations?"
Since 1963, a commission, headed by an Israeli Supreme Court justice
has been charged with the duty of awarding the title "Righteous
among the Nations."
The commission is guided in its work by certain criteria and
meticulously studies all pertinent documentation, including evidence
by survivors and other eyewitnesses.
In order to arrive at a fair evaluation of the rescuer's deeds and
motivations, the commission takes into consideration all the
circumstances relevant to the rescue story, including the following:
How the original contact was made between the rescuer and the rescued.
- A description of the aid extended.
- Whether any material compensation was paid in return for the
aid, and, if so, in what amount.
- The dangers and risks faced by the rescuer at the time.
- The rescuer's motivations, in so far as this is ascertainable;
e.g., friendship, altruism, religious belief, humanitarian
considerations, or others.
- The availability of evidence from the rescued persons (an almost
indispensable precondition for the purpose of this program).
- Other relevant data and pertinent documentation that might shed
light on the authenticity and uniqueness of the story.
In general, when the data on hand clearly demonstrates that a
non-Jewish person risked his (or her) life, freedom, and safety in
order to rescue one or several Jews from the threat of death or
deportation to death camps without exacting in advance monetary
compensation, this qualifies the rescuer for serious
consideration to be awarded the "Righteous Among the Nations" title.
This applies equally to rescuers who have since passed away.
Awarding the Title
A person recognized as a "Righteous Among the Nations" is awarded a
specially minted medal bearing his name, a certificate of honor, and
the privilege of his (or her) name being 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 in
moving ceremonies in Israel or in their countries of residence through the good
offices of Israel's diplomatic representatives. These ceremonies are
attended by local government representatives and are given wide
To date, more than 16,000 men and women have been recognized as Righteous
Among the Nations [listing by country includes just under 16,000]. This figure includes family members who shared in
the rescue of Jews and represents more than 7,500 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.
For the time being, queries regarding the "Righteous Among the
Nations" may be handled best by regular mail or fax. Please include
your regular mailing address and fax number (if applicable) with
your query. Address all correspondence to:
Righteous Among the Nations
Sources: Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum