Ulma family

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Józef and Wiktoria Ulma)

Ulma family
Photograph of the Ulma family, circa 1943.
Born2 March 1900 (Józef)
10 December 1912 (Wiktoria)
18 July 1936 (Stanisława)
6 October 1937 (Barbara)
5 December 1938 (Władysław)
3 April 1940 (Franciszek)
6 June 1941 (Antoni)
16 September 1942 (Maria)
24 March 1944 (unborn child)
Markowa, Congress Poland,
Russian Empire
Died24 March 1944
Occupied Poland, Nazi Germany
Cause of deathExecution
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified10 September 2023, Ludowy Klub Sportowy Markovia, Markowa, Poland by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro (on behalf of Pope Francis)
Major shrineChurch of Saint Dorothy, Markowa, Poland
Feast7 July

The Ulma family (Polish: Rodzina Ulmów) or Józef and Wiktoria Ulma with Seven Children (Polish: Józef i Wiktoria Ulmowie z Siedmiorgiem Dzieci) were a Polish Catholic family in Markowa, Poland, during the Nazi German occupation in World War II who attempted to rescue Polish Jewish families by hiding them in their own home during the Holocaust. They and their children were summarily executed on 24 March 1944 for doing so.[1][2]

Notably, despite the murder of the Ulmas — meant to strike fear into the hearts of villagers — their neighbours continued to hide Jewish fugitives until the end of World War II in Europe. At least 21 Polish Jews survived in Markowa during the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany.[3] In 1995 the adult Ulmas have been recognized by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations. They are venerated in the Catholic Church as martyrs following their beatification by Pope Francis in 2023; their feast day is celebrated on 7 July (day of the anniversary of Józef and Wiktoria's wedding).[4]


Józef Ulma[edit]

Józef Ulma (2 March 1900 – 24 March 1944) from the Village of Markowa near in Przemyśl, son of Marcin Ulma and Franciszka Ulma (née Kluz), well-off farmers. In 1911, he took short courses in a general school. In his youth, he became involved in social activities. At the age of seventeen, he was a member of the association in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Przemyśl, whose purpose, apart from prayer, was to collect funds for the construction and maintenance of churches and chapels.[5] In addition, he became an active member of the Catholic Youth Association and later the Rural Youth Association. At this time he worked as a librarian and photographer.

In 1921 to 1922, he completed his compulsory military service in Grodno.[5] From 1 November 1929 to 31 March 1930, he studied at the National Agricultural School in Plzeň. After obtaining a diploma, he became a market gardener, growing fruit trees, raising bees and silkworms. In 1933, he received an award from the Przeworsk District Agricultural Society for these activities. He was the first to introduce electricity to Markowa. Furthermore, he was passionate about photography, and indulged in it during cultural events in his village and during family celebrations. He also wrote articles for a local weekly newspaper. In addition, he was a member of the Agricultural Circle and other organizations.

Wiktoria Ulma[edit]

Wiktoria Ulma, née Niemczak, (10 December 1912 – 24 March 1944) from the Village of Markowa near in Łańcut, daughter of Jan Niemczak and Franciscka Niemczak (née Homa). Her mother died when she was six years old.[6] She completed her primary and secondary education in her hometown, after which she took courses at the People's University in Gać.[7] In her hometown, she was a member of an amateur theater troupe. Wiktoria was an educated housewife, taking care of the home and the children.[8] Through hard work, persistence and determination, the Ulmas were able to purchase a bigger farm (5 hectares (12 acres) in size) in Wojsławice near Sokal (now Ukraine), and had already begun planning a relocation when the war began.[7]

Józef and Wiktoria married on 7 July 1935. After their marriage, they earned their living as farmers on a small farm they owned. Together they had six children and were expecting their seventh:

  • Stanisława (born 18 July 1936), aged 8
  • Barbara (born 6 October 1937), aged 7
  • Władysław (born 5 December 1938), aged 6
  • Franciszek (born 3 April 1940), aged 4
  • Antoni (born 6 June 1941), aged 3
  • Maria (born 16 September 1942), aged 2
  • Unborn child, aged 8 months

The couple were active members in the Church of Saint Dorothy in Markowa. They deepened their faith through family prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the church.[9] They both belonged to the Association of the Living Rosary.[10] After the outbreak of World War II, Józef was mobilized and took part in the Polish campaign.[11]

Holocaust rescue[edit]

In the summer and autumn of 1942, the Nazi police deported several Jewish families of Markowa as part of Operation Reinhard, the Nazi plan to exterminate Polish Jews in the General Government district of German-occupied Poland.[7] Only those who were hidden in Polish peasants' homes survived. Eight Jews found shelter with the Ulmas: six members of the Szall (Szali) family from Łańcut including father, mother and four sons, as well as the two daughters of Chaim Goldman, Golda (Gienia) and Layka (Lea) Didner.[12] Józef Ulma put all eight Jews in the attic. They learned to help him with supplementary jobs while in hiding, to ease the incurred expenses.[7]

Arrest and execution[edit]

The Ulma family were denounced by Włodzimierz Leś, a member of the Blue Police, who had taken possession of the Szall (Szali) family's real estate in Łańcut in spring 1944 and wanted to get rid of its rightful owners.[7] In the early morning hours of 24 March 1944 a patrol of German police from Łańcut under Lieutenant Eilert Dieken came to the Ulmas' house which was on the outskirts of the village. The Germans surrounded the house and caught all eight Jews belonging to the Szali and Goldman families. They shot them in the back of the head according to eyewitness Edward Nawojski and others, who were ordered to watch the executions. Then the German gendarmes killed the pregnant Wiktoria and her husband so that the villagers would see what punishment awaited them for hiding Jews. The six children began to scream at the sight of their parents' bodies. After consulting with his superior, twenty-three year old Jan Kokott, a Czech Volksdeutscher from Sudetenland serving with the German police, shot three or four of the Polish children while the other Polish children were murdered by the remaining gendarmes.[12] Within several minutes 17 people were killed. It is likely that during the mass execution Wiktoria went into labour because the witness to her exhumation testified that he saw a head of a newborn baby between her legs.[8]

The names of the other Nazi executioners are also known from their frequent presence in the village (Eilert Dieken, Michael Dziewulski and Erich Wilde). The village Vogt (Polish: Wójt) Teofil Kielar was ordered to bury the victims with the help of other witnesses. He asked the German commander, whom he had known from prior inspections and food acquisitions, why the children too had been killed. Dieken answered in German, "So that you would not have any problems with them."[12]

On 11 January 1945, in defiance of the Nazi prohibition, relatives of the Ulmas exhumed the bodies, which were originally buried in front of the house, and found Wiktoria's seventh child, emerged from her womb, in the parents' grave pit. A funeral was later held in the Church of Saint Dorothy in Markowa and the family's remains were then buried in Markowa cemetery.[13]


Monument in Markowa (Poland) to those shot in 1944

On 13 September 1995, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were posthumously bestowed the titles of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.[14][15] Their medals of honor were presented to Józef's surviving brother, Władysław Ulma. Their certificate states that they tried to save Jews at the risk of their lives, but fails to mention that they died for them, as noted in the book Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny.[16]

On 24 March 2004, the 60th anniversary of their execution, a stone memorial was erected in the village of Markowa to honor the memory of the Ulma family.[8][17] The inscription on the memorial 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.[12]

At the unveiling of the monument, the Archbishop of Przemyśl, Archbishop Józef Michalik – the President of the Polish Bishops' Conference – celebrated a solemn Mass.[12]

The local diocesan level of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland initiated the Ulmas' beatification process in 2003.[18] The Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke in Rome of the heroic Polish family on 24 January 2007 during the inauguration of the Italian edition of Martin Gilbert's book I giusti. Gli eroi sconosciuti dell'Olocausto ("The Righteous. Unknown Heroes of the Holocaust").[12]

Special commemorations were held in Markowa on 24 March 2007 – 63 years after the Ulma, Szall and Goldman families were massacred. Mass was celebrated, followed by the Way of the Cross with the intention of the Ulma family's beatification. Among the guests was the President of the Council of Kraków, who laid flowers at the monument to the dead. The students of the local high school presented their own interpretation of the Ulmas' family decision to hide Jews in a short performance entitled Eight Beatitudes. There was also an evening of poetry dedicated to the memory of the murdered. Older neighbors and relatives who knew them spoke about the life of the Ulmas. One historian from the Institute of National Remembrance presented archival documents; and, the Catholic diocesan postulator explained the requirements of the beatification process.[12] On 24 May 2011, the completed documentation of their martyrdom was passed on to Rome for completion of the beatification process.[19]

The fate of the Ulmas became a symbol of martyrdom of Poles killed by the Germans for helping Jews. A new Polish "National day of the Ulma family" has first been suggested by the former Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński. Subsequently, the growing support for a more formal commemoration inspired the Sejmik of Podkarpackie Voivodeship to name 2014 the Year of the Ulma family (Rok Rodziny Ulmów).[20] The new Markowa Ulma-Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews in World War II was scheduled to be completed in 2015.[21] On 17 March 2016, The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II was opened in Markowa in presence of the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda.[22]

Cause of beatification[edit]

New altar tomb of the Ulma family at the Church of Saint Dorothy, Markowa, Poland

On 17 September 2003, the Diocese of Pelplin, Bishop Jan Bernard Szlaga initiated the beatification process of 122 Polish martyrs who died during World War II, including Józef and Wiktoria Ulma with their seven children among the others. 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.[23]

On 18 December 2022, Pope Francis declared the entire family to be martyrs and determined that they would be beatified on 10 September 2023, a celebration that was held in their native Markowa and presided over by Cardinal Marcello Semeraro on the Pope's behalf.[24][25] Between 30 March and 1 April 2023, the remains of the Ulma family were exhumed in preparation for their beatification, after which they would be placed in a sarcophagus, prepared in advance, in the side altar dedicated in the Church of Saint Dorothy in Markowa.[26]

The beatification of the Ulma family is unique within the Catholic Church, as they are the first family to be beatified together in the history of the church in 21st century. After some news reports suggested that the beatification would represent the first beatification of an unborn or pre-born child, the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints released an official clarification on 5 September 2023, stating that "this [unnamed] son was delivered at the time of his mother's martyrdom" (based on the evidence that his remains were found emerged from his mother's womb in the original grave), and he was therefore included with the other martyred Ulma children, under the Catholic doctrine of baptism of blood.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mateusz Szpytma, "The Righteous and their world. Markowa through the lens of Józef Ulma" Archived 2008-12-05 at the Wayback Machine, Institute of National Remembrance, Poland.
  2. ^ (in Polish) Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, Wystawa „Sprawiedliwi wśród Narodów Świata”– 15 czerwca 2004 r., Rzeszów. Archived 2009-06-11 at the Wayback Machine "Polacy pomagali Żydom podczas wojny, choć groziła za to kara śmierci – o tym wie większość z nas." (Exhibition "Righteous among the Nations." Rzeszów, 15 June 2004. Subtitled: "The Poles were helping Jews during the war - most of us already know that."); accessed 8 November 2008.
  3. ^ Polish Press Agency PAP. "Commemorations in Markowa, on the 71st anniversary of the murder of Ulma family" [W Markowej uczczono 71. rocznicę zamordowania Ulmów i ukrywanych przez nich Żydów]. Dzieje.pl (in Polish). Archived from the original on 2016-08-27. Retrieved 2018-02-22 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ Guzik, Paulina (2023-09-10). "As entire Ulma family beatified in Poland, pope hails them as 'ray of light in the darkness'". www.oursundayvisitor.com. Retrieved 2023-09-10.
  5. ^ a b "Samarytanie z Markowej. Słudzy Boży Ulmowie – rodzina, która oddała swoje życie za pomoc Żydom – Narodowy Instytut Kultury i Dziedzictwa Wsi". 2023-09-06. Archived from the original on 2023-09-06. Retrieved 2023-09-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Poland (25 February 2018). "The Ulma Family: Symbol of Polish Heroism in the Face of Nazi German Brutalities". German Camps, Polish Heroes. Instytut Lukasiewicza. What Was the Truth? Project under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda. Project coordinators: Auschwitz Memorial and State Museum in Oświęcim, and Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw. Archived from the original on 24 April 2019. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Teresa Tyszkiewicz. "Rodzina Ulmów. Miłość silniejsza niż strach". Adonai.pl (in Polish). Bibliography: M. Szpytma: "Żydzi i ofiara rodziny Ulmów z Markowej podczas okupacji niemieckiej" [in:] W gminie Markowa, Vol. 2, Markowa 2004, p. 35; M. Szpytma, J. Szarek: Sprawiedliwi wśród narodów świata, Kraków 2007. Archived from the original on 2012-02-24 – via Internet Archive.
  8. ^ a b c Mateusz Szpytma (2006-03-25). "Lay down their lives for their fellow man. Heroic family who perished for hiding Jews" [Oddali życie za bliźnich. Bohaterska rodzina Ulmów zginęła za ukrywanie Żydów]. Nasz Dziennik. 72 (2482). Archived from the original on 2014-03-08 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ "Small Polish town gears up for beatification of entire family killed for saving Jews". Crux. 2023-09-06. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  10. ^ Soler, Ignacy (2022-12-20). "The Ulma family of Markowa: martyrs of the Christian faith". Omnes. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  11. ^ "The Ulma family: Polish martyrs who saved Jews". TheArticle. 2023-09-08. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Wlodzimierz Redzioch, interview with Mateusz Szpytma, historian from the Institute of National Remembrance (4 March 2016), "They gave up their lives." Tygodnik Niedziela weekly, 16/2007, Editor-in-chief: Fr Ireneusz Skubis Częstochowa, Poland. Internet Archive.
  13. ^ "Saving Jews: Polish Righteous". 2008-01-20. Archived from the original on 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2023-09-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  14. ^ Israel Gutman (red.): Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata. Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu: Polska. T. II. Kraków: Jad Waszem, 2009, s. 777. ISBN 978-83-87832-59-9.
  15. ^ "Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma | Paying the Ultimate Price | Themes | A Tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations". www.YadVashem.org. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  16. ^ Jolanta Chodorska, Alicja Augustyniak, Godni synowie naszej Ojczyzny, Wyd. Sióstr Loretanek (publishing), 2002, Warsaw, Poland; ISBN 83-7257-102-3.
  17. ^ Joe Riesenbach, "The Story of Survival". Footnote by Richard Tyndorf
  18. ^ Anna Domin (2015), Słudzy Boży - Józef i Wiktoria Ulmowie z Dziećmi. Nasi patronowie. Stowarzyszenie Szczęśliwy Dom. Internet Archive.
  19. ^ Fight Hatred (27 May 2011), "Sainthood for Martyred Polish Jew-Defenders", Jabotinsky International Center; accessed 30 August 2016.
  20. ^ Potocka, Katarzyna. "Rok Rodziny Ulmów", Wrota Podkarpackie, 2014
  21. ^ Polskie Radio (24 March 2014), Ulmowie poświęcili życie by ratować Żydów. 70. rocznica niemieckiej zbrodni (On the 70th Anniversary of the Ulma Martyrdom); PolskieRadio.pl; accessed 30 August 2016.
  22. ^ "Uroczystość otwarcia Muzeum Polaków Ratujących Żydów im. Rodziny Ulmów w Markowej". Dzieje.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  23. ^ "Proces beatyfikacyjny Rodziny Ulmów będzie prowadzony przez Archidiecezję Przemyską | Archidiecezja Przemyska". Archidiecezja Przemyska (in Polish). 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  24. ^ "Church to beatify Polish family killed for helping Jews in WW2 - Vatican News". www.vaticannews.va. 2022-12-17. Retrieved 2022-12-18.
  25. ^ CNA. "A married couple with seven children to be beatified by the Catholic Church for martyrdom by Nazis". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2022-12-20.
  26. ^ "Bodies of Ulma Family Exhumed: Beatification for Poles Who Helped Jews Escape Nazis Set for Sept. 2023". ChurchPOP. 2023-04-17. Retrieved 2023-09-10.
  27. ^ Coppen, Luke (2023-09-05). "Here's what's special about the Ulma family beatification". The Pillar. Retrieved 2023-09-10.