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Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma

(Jozef b. 1900, Wiktoria b. 1912, both died 1944)

In September 2023, the Vatican took the unprecedented step of beatifying (a step toward sainthood) an entire family. Polish farmers Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their six young children – Stanislawa, Barbara, Maria, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, and Antoni – hid eight Jews in their farmhouse in the village of Markowa before being betrayed and executed for sheltering Jews.

According to Yad Vashem:

In the fall of 1942, while the hunt for Jews was going on in the entire area, a Jewish family from Lancut by the name of Szall came to Markowa to find shelter. When they asked Josef and Wiktoria Ulma to hide them, the couple agreed and took them in along with two sisters – Golda and Layka Goldman. “These Jews stayed on the premises of the Ulmas and slept in the garret of the house... They never hid in particular, since all of them were busy helping to run the Ulmases’ farm,” reported Stanislaw Niemczak, a neighbor of the Ulma family. Although the Ulma house was at the outskirts, the Jews’ presence on the farm was soon discovered. It is not certain who denounced them to the Germans, but a study conducted by Mateusz Szpytma for the Polish IPN (Institute for National Remembrance), states that it was probably a policeman from Lancut by the name of Wlodzimierz Les. Les knew the Szall family’s whereabouts because he had helped them at an earlier stage in return for payment. Since then he had been holding on to the Szall’s belongings. When they wanted to retrieve their property, Les turned them in.

On March 24, 1944, German police shot the Jews hiding in the attic and then took the Ulma family outside, shooting Jozef and Wiktoria (who was seven months pregnant) and their children. Another Jew who was hidden by Poles in a nearby town, said the execution of the Ulma family caused others to panic and, the next day, 24 Jews were found dead after peasants who had hidden them for twenty months killed them.

Several months later, members of the Polish underground resistance executed Les.

In 1995, Yad Vashem awarded Jozef and Wiktoria with the title “Righteous Among the Nations.” 

A monument in remembrance of Josef and Wiktoria Ulma and their six children was inaugurated in Markowa in 2004.

Sources:  “Murder in Markowa,” Yad Vashem.
Adam Easton, “Beatification for Polish family murdered for sheltering Jews,” BBC, (September 10, 2023).
Monika Scislowska, “Vatican beatifies a Polish family of 9 killed by the Nazis for sheltering Jews,” AP, (September 10, 2023).

Photos: Portrait -  Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Monument - Wojciech Pysz, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.