A yellowed and worn Bible, opened to the page of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, with the title of that passage marked in a red line and a handwritten note: YES! -it is precisely This image appears before my eyes every time my mind returns to the Ulma Family Museum. dedicated to the Poles who saved the Jews during that time Second World War in the village of Markowain the south of Poland.
The copy of the Holy Scripture mentioned above belonged to the couple Józef and Wiktoria Ulma. Those were a few Polish farmers who hosted eight Jewish compatriots in their house: Saul Goldman with his four children, Gołda Grünfeld and Lea Didner with their little daughter. Shortly before dawn on March 24, 1944, German gendarmes stormed the Markowa farm. They shot the hiding Jews and their guards on the spot. They didn’t just murder Józef Ulma and his pregnant wife Wiktoria, but also their six small children.
The Nazi German occupation, the Holocaust and mass atrocities against Poland are a common threadIt is an enormously important and even painful part of my country’s history. Many of my compatriots shared the fate of the Ulma family. Every year on March 24th we celebrate a holiday: the National Day of Remembrance of the Poles who saved Jews during the German occupation.
Before the outbreak of the Second World War Poland had a very large Jewish community, one of the largest in this nation’s history. For centuries, Jews were eager to settle in our land, which they themselves baptized with a simple word: Polin, translated as “Here you will rest.” They enjoyed peace and development opportunities in Poland and our capital Warsaw in the late 1930s. It was the second largest Jewish center in the world after New York.
The German plan for the total annihilation of the Jews – terrible because of its inhuman, mechanical, almost industrial character – had to take these facts into account. Therefore, in occupied Poland German Nazis created death factories: the extermination camps to which Jews from other countries conquered by the Third Reich were also transported. In addition, Poland has been known for centuries as a tolerant country, a country where culture and social relationships were characterized by Christian values. The German occupation authorities therefore expected resistance to their criminal actions. Thus They would threaten death to anyone in our country who even tried to provide any help to a Jew. that tried to hide. Yet despite this terrible sanction, thousands of Polish Jews received help to save their lives. They helped them escape from the ghetto, providing them with hidden accommodation, food, money and false papers.
To this day, historians are reconstructing the course of the dramatic events of those years. Till date, More than seven thousand Poles, including Wiktoria and Józef Ulma, have already received the title of Righteous Among the Nationsgranted by the Yad Vashem Institute based in Jerusalem. In this venerable group of the righteous, the Poles form the largest national group. Polish authorities and state institutions continue to strive to honorably commemorate these unsung and often anonymous heroes, especially those who paid with their lives for their generosity and bravery.
As Poles We are proud that on September 10, 2023, the Ulma family, our compatriots, were accepted into the ranks of the blessed the Catholic Church. The significance of this event goes beyond the religious dimension. It was also a tribute to the heroes who embody humanity’s highest ideals. The story of his martyrdom – heartbreaking and at the same time an extraordinary testimony of love for his neighbor – should be known throughout the world. We hope it changes people’s hearts and sets an example of openness and solidarity towards others.
*Text published together with the Polish monthly magazine “Wszystko co najważniejsze” as part of a historical project with the Institute of National Remembrance and the Polish National Foundation