The Ulma family: the symbol of Polish heroism under German terror

A year ago, Pope Francis recognised the martyrdom of Wiktoria and Józef Ulma and their children, whom the Germans killed for trying to save Jews during WWII. The family will be beatified on 10 September in Markowa, Poland. According to the Vatican’s media office, this will be the first time in history that an entire family will be elevated toward sainthood.

Marysia Ulma. Photo: Center for Patriotic and Civic Thought (OMPiO), Kielce)

The heroic Ulma family from Markowa was among the brutally murdered Poles who were hiding Jews. Józef and Wiktoria Ulma had six children. In 1944, at the time of their murder, Stanisława was eight years old, Barbara seven, Władysław five, Franciszek four, Antoni three, and Maria was one and a half years old. Moreover, at the time of her death, Wiktoria Ulma was nine months pregnant. The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints said Wiktoria Ulma gave birth when she was killed. The newborn baby received „the baptism of blood” and is included in the number of living children.

Eight Jews hiding there, including one child, were also murdered. They were Saul Goldman, a cattle trader from Łańcut, with his sons unknown by name, and Gołda Grünfeld and Lea Didner, and a little daughter with an unknown name.

An eyewitness of the massacre named Edward Nawojski later related: “While they were being shot […] you could hear horrible screaming and laments. Children were calling after their parents, who had already been shot. This all made a shocking impression”.

Lieutenant Eilert Dieken, a murderer from Markowa. Photo: Center for Patriotic and Civic Thought (OMPiO), Kielce)

Nawojski also witnessed how the children were being shot dead by war criminal Josef Kokott. Right before pulling the trigger, the latter allegedly stated, “Look how Polish pigs hiding Jews die”.

In less than an hour, 17 people got murdered and are merely one among thousands of examples of similar acts of barbarism perpetrated by the Germans on Polish soil between 1939 and 1945.

The German occupation of Poland during WWII was particularly brutal, especially regarding racial issues. Poland was the only country in which the hiding of Jews was punishable by death… for all the families living under the roof where such a “crime” took place.

Despite the prevailing German terror in occupied Poland, many Poles overcame their fear and risked their own and their relatives’ lives, saving Jews in the name of Christian values ​​and helping their scar. It should be emphasized that Poles are the most numerous group of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Ulma children. Photo: Muzeum Polaków Ratujących Żydów w Markowej

On 1 September 2022, “The report on the losses suffered by Poland due to the German aggression and occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945” was published. The Parliamentary Team prepared the latter for Estimating the Amount of Compensation Due to Poland from Germany for Damages Caused During World War II, led by Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk. A group of 30 scientists, including historians, economists, property appraisers, and reviewers, contributed to the large document. The abridged version of The War Report in English is available here.

For the past 12 months, the Polish government has pressured Germany to obtain war reparations for the damages caused by the Third Reich to Poland during WWII.

Photos: IPN,  Muzeum Polaków Ratujących Żydów w Markowej

Cover photo: Image: Twitter (@ipngovpl_eng)

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen 

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