First Arab Nominated for Holocaust Honor
Now, Abdelwahhab has become the first Arab nominated for recognition as "Righteous Among the Nations," an honor bestowed on non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from Nazi persecution.
The nomination of Abdelwahhab, who died in 1997, has reopened a little-known chapter of the Holocaust in the Arab countries of
Abdelwahhab was nominated by Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a
Satloff said that after the Sept. 11 attacks, he went to
"I asked, did any Arabs save Jews in the Holocaust?" Satloff said. "If they did, these are stories about which Arabs could be proud. It would also entail accepting the context, because it would mean there was something to save Jews from."
The search led to Abdelwahhab, the son of an aristocratic family who was 32 when German troops arrived in
Abdelwahhab served as an interlocutor between the population of the coastal town of
When he heard that German officers were planning to rape Odette Boukris, a local Jewish woman, he gathered her family and several other Jewish families in Mahdia - around two dozen people - and took them to his farm outside town. He hid them for four months, until the occupation ended.
"Khaled is the finest example, though not the only one, of an Arab who saved Jews from persecution during the German occupation," Satloff said.
Satloff first heard Abdelwahhab's story several years ago from Odette Boukris' daughter, Anny Boukris, a resident of a
Satloff went to Mahdia and talked to Anny Boukris' childhood friends, who confirmed the story. Just weeks after Boukris recorded her 83-page testimony, she died at age 71.
Abdelwahhab still has to be approved by the Yad Vashem commission that grants the honor. Since the war, Yad Vashem has conferred the status on 21,700 people, including some 60 Muslims from the Balkans. But no Arab had ever been nominated.
"The commission will decide based on the strict criteria for recognizing the Righteous Among the Nations. We can't speculate on what the outcome will be," said Estee Yaari, a spokeswoman for Yad Vashem.
Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, a North Africa expert at
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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