The Family Who Died for Sheltering Jews

2 Books Recall "Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust"

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ROME, MARCH 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- For harboring Jews, the nine members of the Ulma family were executed by firing squad in 1944 in their German-occupied Polish village.



Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the Polish family in a speech given recently in Rome on the occasion of the publication of a book by British historian Martin Gilbert entitled "The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust."

The Ulmas' story was also told recently in an interview with the magazine Inside the Vatican and Mateusz Szpytma, a Polish historian and co-author of the book "The Sacrifice of the Just: The Ulma Family Gave Their Lives for Helping Jews."

Szpytma began, "In the summer and spring of 1942, Germans murdered the majority of the Jewish citizens of Markowa," a small village in southeastern Poland.

"One of the families who made a heroic decision to hide the Jews was the Ulma family," Szpytma explained. "Eight Jewish people found shelter in the Ulmas' house."

"At dawn on March 24, 1944, military policemen arrived at the house of Jozef Ulma. There were soon thereafter a few shots heard -- the Jews were killed first," Szpytma continued. Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma were then "led out of the house and executed."

A witness to the tragedy testified that "the children were calling for their parents, but the parents were already dead. It was a shocking sight."

Szpytma explained that "having shot the parents, among the yells, the policemen started to discuss what to do with the children." It was decided the children should also be executed.

And so died the Ulmas' six children "and the seventh child in his mother's womb, just a few days before the day of his planned birth. In just a few dozen minutes 17 people were killed," recalled Szpytma.

"Owing to the help of other Poles who kept Jews in their houses until the end of the war, at least 17 people survived in Markowa," the historian said.

The Ulma family has been honored with the title Righteous Among the Nations, and their beatification process was initiated on the diocesan level in August 2003.