Righteous Among the Nations Remembrance Day in Ukraine Date in the current year: May 14, 2024

Righteous Among the Nations Remembrance Day in Ukraine Righteous Among the Nations Remembrance Day, also known as the Day of Remembrance of Ukrainians who Saved Jews During World War II, is an official observance in Ukraine. It was established by the Ukrainian parliament in February 2021 and observed for the first time on May 14, 2021.

The honorific “Righteous Among the Nations” is used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who saved Jews from extermination during the Holocaust, risking their own lives. It is awarded by a special commission based on certain criteria. The basic criteria for awarding the title of Righteous are the following:

  • Active involvement in saving at least one Jew from the threat of deportation to a death camp or death
  • Risk to the rescuer’s position, liberty or life
  • Selfless motivation, i.e. no payment or any other reward was expected from the rescued person
  • The rescue can be confirmed by eyewitness testimony or at least unequivocal documentation

In addition, only a Jewish party can nominate a person for the title of Righteous; a person can be awarded the title posthumously.

The social rank of the rescuer or the number of Jews they helped do not matter; according to the Talmud, whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the entire world. The title has been given to royalty, diplomats, politicians, clergy, resistance fighters, but also to regular people who saved their Jewish friends or neighbors. Some Righteous have been beatified or even canonized by the Catholic Church.

As of January 1, 2020, the title has been awarded to over 27,000 people; more than 2,600 of them are from Ukraine. Ukraine is the country with the fourth largest number of Righteous Among the Nations, after Poland, the Netherlands, and France. The majority of Ukrainian Righteous have been awarded the title since Ukraine gained independence in 1991 because in the Soviet Union, people were reluctant to admit having rescued Jews during the war due to antisemitism.

One of the most famous Ukrainian Righteous was Archimandrite Klymentiy Sheptytsky, who would hide Jews in monasteries and help them escape to the Hungarian-occupied part of Ukraine. After the war, he was arrested by the Soviet authorities and died in prison on May 1, 1951. Sheptytsky was rehabilitated in 1991, awarded the title of Righteous in 1996, and beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Righteous Among the Nations Remembrance Day in Ukraine is observed on May 14 because on this day in 1948, Israel declared its independence. It should be noted, however, that it does not coincide with Israel Independence Day, since the latter is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar.

Righteous Among the Nations Remembrance Day events are organized by the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, the Ministry of Science and Education of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the Babyn Yar (Babi Yar) Holocaust Memorial Center, and local authorities.

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