An official ceremony on the occasion of the National Day of Remembrance of Poles who saved Jews during German occupation of Poland was held in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on March 24.
President Andrzej Duda gave out state distinctions to those who saved Jews during the Second World War and help maintain the memory of those events.
Duda declared in his speech that he will unequivocally fight any cases of anti-Semitism during his term as president and later on in life. He added that anti-Semitism in Poland strikes at the memory of the loved ones of those who helped Jews during the war.
The president also stressed that Poles must never accept or permit any Nazi German symbols or gestures in Poland’s public space. This is because of Polish solidarity with Jews and the memory of those Poles and Jews who died and were murdered. Duda stated that Poles must be principled in this matter, as they owe this kind of solidarity to the victims.
Duda said that any examples of anti-Semitism in Poland represents a trampling on the graves of the Polish Ulma family who famously hid and protected Jews from Germans, a decision that ended up with them paying with their lives.
“They did what they did out of love and anti-Semitism is hatred – two opposites. We can never accept anti-Semitism. We must never be indifferent towards it,” he said.
The National Day of Remembrance of Poles who saved Jews, initiated by president Andrzej Duda in 2018 and established by parliament, is an expression of honoring all those Polish citizens (no matter their nationality) who helped Jews who were targeted by German extermination policies. The date March 24 was chosen because it refers to the day (March 24, 1944) on which Germans murdered the Ulma family in Markowa in southern Poland.
Józef Ulma, his pregnant wife Wiktoria, their six young children and eight Jews from the Didner, Grunfeld and Goldman families concealed by the Ulmas, were killed by German military police on the personal order of lieutenant Eilert Dieken. Dieken was never put on trial for his crimes. After the war he returned to Germany and settled in Esens in Lower Saxony. He continued to work in West German police and died peacefully in 1960.
It is estimated, that during the Second World War Poles saved the lives of between several dozen to 300 thousand Jews.