The Righteous Among the Nations are people all over the world who have been recognized by the State of Israel for their contributions to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Over 22,000 people have been honored as Righteous Among the Nations, and new cases for commemoration are periodically considered. All of those honored are listed on a memorial at the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, visitors to the site can also wander through a garden and see numerous historical items related to the Holocaust.
This award is administered by Yad Vashem, the authority which is responsible for Holocaust remembrance in Israel. Yad Vashem was established in 1953, with the Righteous Among the Nations award first being issued in 1963. Since then, people in 44 nations have been honored as Righteous Among the Nations, with some awards being posthumous. The organization issues this award to honor people who were willing to speak up when others were silent, and to take action when many people remained paralyzed.
In order to be recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, someone must be a Gentile, and he or she must have a case which stands up to review by a committee headed by a Supreme Court Justice. The committee considers the actions that someone undertook, the level of risk and sacrifice involved, and the motivations for those actions. Committee members also look at supporting documentation and testimony to consider the cases brought before them.
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If the committee degrees that an unusual level of heroism and humanism was exhibited, they award the individual a medal with his or her name, in addition to a spot on the Mount of Remembrance. The Righteous Among the Nations are also listed in several other locations, with many Jewish organizations keeping listings of their righteous from their own countries. Poland has the most honorees, with over 6,000 Righteous.
The people included on the list of the Righteous Among the Nations are incredibly diverse. They were young and old at the time of their actions, rich and poor, religious and atheist, male and female. People on the list come from all social classes and levels of education, but they all share the common trait of being extremely courageous and willing to defy the status quo to rectify a situation which they perceive as wrong.