72 years ago today, on March 24, 1944, a terrible crime took place. In front of their six children, aged 2-8, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were murdered by the German Nazis, each killed with a bullet to the back of the head. Wiktoria was about 9 months pregnant, too. And after that, each of the children was also murdered, executed, a bullet to the head.
What led up to this? In 1942, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, prominent citizens of the small town of Markowa, gave shelter to two Jewish families, a total of eight Jews, hiding them in their attic. For nearly two years, they were hidden, sheltered, saved from the Nazi machine that was busy rounding up and murdering millions of Polish Jews.
But on that fateful morning of March 24, 1944, time had run out. Given up by an informer, a German patrol surrounded the house and caught all eight Jews. They were each shot in the back of the head. Next, Jóżef and Wiktoria were summarily executed, then each of their children, one by one. A few locals were forced to dig a mass grave and bury them all.
In all the Nazi-occupied territory in World War II, it was only in Poland that the penalty for sheltering a Jew was death, and death to you and your whole family. Thousands of Poles were caught sheltering and helping Jews, and they too were murdered.
You can read more about this horrific crime here:
But that’s not the end of the story. The story of the murder of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma does not end there. The bodies were later exhumed and given a burial in the church cemetery–that’s where they discovered the nearly born seventh child. In 1953, Józef and Wiktoria were recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. Of all nations so honored, Poland by far has the most people, because Poland by far did the most to help the Jews in World War II, and Poland by far had the most Jewish citizens that were murdered by the Nazis.
In 2004 a stone monument was erected in memory of this horrific crime. And now, in 2016, on March 14, a new museum opened, the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews on the site that the Ulma family was murdered. The museum is a testimony to the thousand of brave Poles who gave their lives to save fellow citizens, and also to the thousands who suceeded. You can read more about the museum here: