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When Yad Vashem, the ShoahMartyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by the Knesset, one of its tasks was to commemorate the "Righteous Among the Nations". The Righteous were defined as non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Since 1963, a commission headed by a justice of the Supreme Court of Israel has been charged with the duty of awarding the honorary title "Righteous Among the Nations". Guided in its work by certain criteria, the commission meticulously studies all documentation including evidence by survivors and other eyewitnesses, evaluates the historical circumstances and the element of risk to the rescuer, and then decides if the case meets the criteria. Those criteria are:
Only a Jewish party can put a nomination forward
Helping a family member, or helping a Jew who converted to Christianity is not a criterion for recognition;
Assistance has to be repeated or substantial
Assistance has to be given without any financial gain expected in return (although covering expenses such as food is acceptable)
Memorial tree in Jerusalem, Israel honoring Irena Sendler, a Polish Roman Catholic nurse who saved 2,500 Jews
The Righteous Medal of Marta Boche?ska
A person who is recognized as Righteous for having taken risks to help Jews during the Holocaust is awarded a medal in their name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of having the name 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 during ceremonies in Israel, or in their countries of residence through the offices of Israel's diplomatic representatives. These ceremonies are attended by local government representatives and are given wide media coverage.
The Yad Vashem Law authorizes Yad Vashem "to confer honorary citizenship upon the Righteous Among the Nations, and if they have died, the commemorative citizenship of the State of Israel, in recognition of their actions". Anyone who has been recognized as "Righteous" is entitled to apply to Yad Vashem for the certificate. If the person is no longer alive, their next of kin is entitled to request that commemorative citizenship be conferred on the Righteous who has died.
In total, 27,362 (as of 1 January 2018[update]) men and women from 51 countries have been recognized, amounting to more than 10,000 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 evidence that meets the criteria.
Recipients who choose to live in the State of Israel are entitled to a pension equal to the average national wage and free health care, as well as assistance with housing and nursing care.
Righteous settled in Israel
At least 130 Righteous non-Jews have settled in Israel. They were welcomed by Israeli authorities, and were granted citizenship. In the mid-1980s, they became entitled to special pensions. Some of them settled in British Mandatory Palestine before Israel's establishment shortly after World War II, or in the early years of the new state of Israel, while others came later. Those who came earlier often spoke fluent Hebrew and have integrated into Israeli society.
Other signs of veneration
A Righteous Among the Nations award ceremony in the Polish Senate, 2012
^Gunnar S. Paulsson, "The Rescue of Jews by Non-Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland", The Journal of Holocaust Education, volume 7, nos. 1 & 2 (summer/autumn 1998): pp. 19-44. Reprinted in "Collective Rescue Efforts of the Poles", p. 256.
Tolerance in Judaism: The Medieval and Modern Sources, Zuesse, Evan M., In: The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, edited by Jacob Neusner, A. Avery-Peck, and W.S. Green, Second Edition, ISBN90-04-14787-X, Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2005, Vol. IV: 2688-2713.
When Courage Was Stronger Than Fear: Remarkable Stories of Christians Who Saved Jews from the Holocaust by Peter Hellman. 2nd edition, ISBN1-56924-663-7, Marlowe & Companym, 1999.
Ugo G. Pacifici Noja e Silvia Pacifici Noja, Il cacciatore di giusti: storie di non ebrei che salvarono i figli di Israele dalla Shoah, Cantalupa Torinese, Effatà, 2010, (in Italian), ISBN978-88-7402-568-8.