Poland was the only country in German-occupied Europe where helping the Jewish population was punishable by death.

Despite such draconian sanctions, the assistance provided by ethnic Poles to their Jewish fellow citizens (and often to Jews transported from other parts of the continent) assumed a mass character.

Suffice it to mention that it was only thanks to Irena Sendler and her co-workers from the Children's Department of the Council for Aid to the Jews that it was possible to save approx. 2,000 Jewish children.

A special place in this epic, both heroic and tragic at the same time, is occupied by the married couple of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, whose noble attitude came at a price of their own and their children's lives.

The Ulmas, who lived in the village of Markowa in the Subcarpathian region, were not indifferent to the tragedy of their Jewish neighbours.

Wiktoria and Józef were involved in helping the persecuted at least since 1942. It was then that eight refugees from the Goldman ("Szall"), Grünfeld and Didner families found shelter in their home.

However, this is not all, as Józef helped four more people to prepare shelter in the surrounding forest, and then provided them with the means necessary to survive.

Unfortunately, the Germans found the dugout and murdered the three women and a child who were hiding there. At that time, the perpetrators failed to identify people who had helped the Jews in hiding.

On March 24, 1944, the fate of the Ulmas and the fugitives hidden in their farm was also completed. German gendarmes from nearby Łańcut executed them. At the same time, they did not spare six children of the farm owners (i.e., Staś, Basia, Władek, Frank, Antek and Marysia) and Wiktoria Ulma expecting her next offspring.

After the murder committed, the Germans robbed the farm; they also tried to conceal the number of victims of the massacre.

The crime committed against the Ulmas aroused justifiable horror among the inhabitants of Markowa and the surrounding villages. However, other farm owners who decided to hide Jews did not intend to succumb to German pressure. As a result, a total of 17 people survived the war and found refuge in the village.

Currently, there is a museum in Markowa commemorating the sacrifice of the Ulma family – the Museum of Poles Rescuing Jews during World War II.

In addition, on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda, March 24 was established as the National Day of Remembrance of Poles rescuing Jews under German occupation.

On September 10, 2023, the Ulmas were beatified, a process which commenced at the diocesan level in 2003, came to fruition. The heroic family was thus elevated to the status of blesseds of the Catholic Church.

This was the first time in the history of this religious community that beatification included an entire family.


Selected References:

M. Cobel-Tokarska, Bezludna wyspa, nora, grób. Wojenne kryjówki Żydów w okupowanej Polsce, Warszawa 2012

Represje za pomoc Żydom na okupowanych ziemiach polskich w czasie II wojny światowej, red. M. Grądzka-Rejak, A. Namysło, Warszawa 2019

Israel Gutman, Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata. Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu: Polska, t. II, Kraków, Jad Waszem, 2009

K. Iranek-Osmecki, Kto ratuje jedno życie... Polacy i Żydzi 1939–1945, Warszawa 2009

J. Karski, Tajne państwo, Warszawa 1999

„Kto w takich czasach Żydów przechowuje?…”. Polacy niosący pomoc ludności żydowskiej w okresie okupacji niemieckiej, red. A. Namysło, Warszawa 2009

Relacje o pomocy udzielanej Żydom przez Polaków w latach 1939-1945, t. II: Dystrykt krakowski Generalnego Gubernatorstwa, wybór i opracowanie Sebastian Piątkowski, Lublin-Warszawa 2020

B. Stanisławczyk, Poza strachem. Jak Polacy ratowali Żydów, Warszawa 2023

M. Szpytma, Oddali życie za bliźnich. Bohaterska rodzina Ulmów zginęła za ukrywanie Żydów w: „Nasz Dziennik” nr 72 (2482) z 25 marca 2006

J. Żaryn, T. Sudoł, Polacy ratujący Żydów. Historie niezwykłe, Warszawa 2014