Catholic Church beatifies Polish family killed by Germans for hiding Jews during WWII

Crowd attending a mass in which the Vatican beatified the Polish Ulma family, including small children, who were killed by the Nazis in 1944 for having sheltered Jews, in the Ulmas' home village of Markowa, Poland, on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

A beatification service for the Ulma family was held in Markowa in southeastern Poland on Sunday, with over 30,000 of the faithful in attendance. Papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, who presided over the beatification mass, said in a homily that the example of the Ulma family should encourage people to respond to a “culture of rejection” and to teach them openness to others, especially those in need.

The Ulma family was murdered by German soldiers during the Second World War for hiding a Jewish family. Early on March 24, 1944, a Nazi patrol surrounded their home in Markowa, where Wiktoria and Józef Ulma had been hiding eight Jews. For this, they were executed together with their six children and the Jewish fugitives. At the time of her execution, Wiktoria Ulma was eight months pregnant and her eldest daughter was eight years old. The whole family, including the unborn child, have been beatified by Pope Francis.

Polish President Andrzej Duda expressed his gratitude for the beatification and said that it was a very important day for Poland. He added that apart from its religious significance, it had also another extremely important dimension, as it showed historical truth about the times of the German occupation during the Second World War, and about German laws, which “were the cause of this terrible crime committed on the Polish family.”

Poland was the only country during the war where the Germans punished any form of assisting Jews by killing those who aided the Jews along with their families.

“Poland, divided by two totalitarian regimes, was removed from the map,” the president said, adding that “there had been no Polish authorities collaborating with Nazi Germany on the territory of Poland.”

During his Sunday address, Pope Francis said in the Vatican that the Ulma family had been a ray of light during the war and that they should be an example to be followed in efforts to do good and serve those who are in need.

In 1995, Józef and Wiktoria were posthumously awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The medals are awarded by the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem Institute to individuals and families who risked their own lives and the lives of their loved ones to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. 

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