Righteous among the Nations (Hebrew: חסידי אומות העולם, Chassidey Umot HaOlam. more literally: righteous men of the world's nations), is the term used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust in order to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. The secular award has often been translated into English as Righteous Gentile.
When Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by the Knesset, one of its tasks was to commemorate the "Righteous among the Nations". 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." The commission is guided in its work by certain criteria and meticulously studies all documentation, including evidence by survivors and other eyewitnesses, evaluates the historical circumstances the element of risk to the rescuer, and then decides if the case accords with the criteria.
To be recognized as "Righteous", a person has to fulfill several criteria:
only a Jewish party can put a nomination forward
helping a family member or Jewish converts does not count
the assistance has to be repeated and/or substantial
the assistance has to be given without any financial gain expected in return (although covering normal expenses such as rent or food are acceptable)
A person who is recognized as "Righteous among the Nations" for having taken risks to help Jews during the Holocaust is awarded a medal bearing their name, a certificate of honor, and the privilege of having their 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 also authorizes Yad Vashem "To confer honorary citizenship upon the Righteous among the Nations, and if they have passed away, the commemorative citizenship of the State of Israel, in recognition of their actions." Anyone who has been recognized as Righteous among the Nations is entitled to apply to Yad Vashem for the certificate. If the Righteous among the Nations is no longer alive, their next of kin is entitled to request that commemorative citizenship be conferred on the Righteous among the Nations who has died. Recipients who choose to live in the state of Israel are entitled to a pension equal to the average national wage, free health care, as well as assistance with housing and nursing care.
By 1 January 2008, 22,211 men and women from 45 countries have been recognized as Righteous among the Nations, representing over 10,000 authenticated rescue stories.