ADL Honors Tunisian Muslim For Protecting Jews From The Nazis During The Holocaust
Washington, DC, April 30, 2007 … In honor of his heroic rescue of a group of dispossessed Jews during World War II, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today posthumously honored Khaled Abdelwahhab, the Muslim scion of a wealthy Tunisian family, with the ADL Courage to Care Award.
The award was accepted on behalf of the Abdelwahhab family by his daughter, Faiza Abdul-Wahab, who currently resides in Paris, during the League's Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
"Khaled Abdelwahhab acted outside the bounds of expected behavior, and his ethnicity challenges our preconceived notions about who might risk his or her life for the sake of Jews," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. "Abdelwahhab risked his life for the sake of others in the face of humanity's greatest evil. He was an Arab who saved Jews, and his actions should cause us to think about the possibilities of Jewish-Arab fraternity." (full remarks)
The story of Abdelwahhab's heroism is recounted in the new book by Robert Satloff, Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from The Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands (PublicAffairs, 2006).
In accepting the award, Faiza Abdul-Wahab said she first learned of her father's actions by reading the book, and she thanked Dr. Satloff for his efforts to bring the story to light.
"What I hope people remember most about my father is not the number of people he saved, but the deep respect he showed for the people he helped," she said. "Today, as the daughter of Khalid Abdelwahhab, I extend my hand as a sincere and truthful bridge to my Jewish brothers and sisters. Today, we can open space for dialogue and encounter between our peoples." (full remarks)
From the beginning of World War II, Nazi plans to persecute and eventually exterminate Jews extended throughout the area that Germany and its allies hoped to conquer. That included a great Arab expanse, from Casablanca to Tripoli and on to Cairo, home to more than half a million Jews.
Driven from their homes by the occupying Germans, about two dozen members of the Boukris family found refuge in an olive oil factory in the Tunisian coastal town of Mahdia. After learning that the group was in imminent and grave danger, Abdelwahhab, the son of a wealthy landowner and government official, gathered the group and moved them in the middle of the night to his family's farm 20 miles to the west, in the small village of Tlelsa. There, he arranged for local women to bake for them, and he provided food and shelter every day for four months. In April 1943, British troops entered Mahdia and the Boukrises were able to return to their home. For years after, Abdelwahhab was a frequent honored guest at Shabbat dinners of the Boukris family.
Abdelwahhab was the first Arab to be named as a candidate to receive the State of Israel's highest honor, the designation as Righteous Among the Nations.
In 1987, ADL initiated a unique award to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era. The ADL Courage to Care Award is a plaque with bas-reliefs depicting the backdrop of the rescuers' exceptional deeds – the Nazis' persecution, deportation and murder of millions of Jews. The Courage to Care program is sponsored by Eileen Ludwig Greenland.
Past recipients of the ADL Courage to Care Award include: Ernst Leitz II, Mefail and Njazi Bicaku, Hiram Bingham IV, Sir Nicholas Winton, Konstantin Koslovsky, Jan and Miep Gies, Aristides De Sousa Mendes, Jan Karski, Selahattin Ulkumen, Chiune Sugihara, the French town of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, Emilie and Oskar Schindler, The Partisans of Riccione, Italy and Johanna Vos.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.