Couple and their six children, youngest aged two, gunned down with shot to the head
Sligo News File
A Polish family butchered by the Nazis for sheltering Jews is on the path to beatification.
Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, both devout catholics, lived with their children in the village of Markowa, southeast Poland, where they made a living from fruit farming and bee-keeping. Józef, a librarian and photographer, was active in the social life of the community and the local Catholic Youth Association.
Following the occupation of Poland by Hitler’s murderous Nazi German regime during World War II, the courageous couple offered refuge to eight Jewish people. Nazi police hunted down and deported several Jewish families from Markowa to their deaths as part of the the German Final Solution to the Jewish question in the the latter half of 1942, Only Jews hidden by Polish peasants survived. The eight Jews who found shelter with the Ulmas included a father, mother, their four sons and the two daughters of another family.
For two years years, the couple secretly protected them in the attic of their home. But they were betrayed by a Polish collaborator who it’s claimed had designs on land belonging to one of the Jewish families hidden by the Ulmas.
Just before Easter, on the morning of 24 March 1944, a Nazi patrol surrounded Ulmas home. The eight Jewish people were dragged from the house and shot in the back of the head; executions which villagers were forced to watch.
The head of the German patrol then shot Józef, 44, and his heavily pregnant wife Wiktoria, 33. The couple’s six children Stanisława, 8, Barbara, 7, Władysław, 6, Franciszek, 4, Antoni, 3, and Maria, 2, were executed alongside their slain parents.
Relatives who a year later exhumed the bodies to move them to a cemetery discovered that Wiktoria had gone into labour during the massacre, with her tiny newborn baby found partially born in her grave.
On 13 September 1995, Józef and Wiktoria, known as the “Good Samaritans of Markowa” were posthumously honoured with the title of Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
Sixty years after their execution, a memorial was erected in the village of Markowa to honour the memory of the family. The inscription reads:
‘Saving the lives of others they laid down their own lives. Hiding eight elder brothers in faith, they were killed with them. May their sacrifice be a call for respect and love to every human being! They were the sons and daughters of this land; they will remain in our hearts’
The cause for the beatification of the martyred family was opened by the Polish catholic church in 2003. The Roman phase of the cause commenced in 2011. On 20 February 2017 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was allowed to take over management of the process of Ulma family by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Przemyśl
In 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczyński honoured them with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
During his visit to the former Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camp in 2016 Pope Francis met with relatives of the Ulmas family.
In the same year, the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II was opened in Markowa since when tens of thousands of Poles and Jews have visited the centre.