Beatification Honors Polish Family For Concealing Jews During Nazi Oppression


Amidst the echo of church bells and the hum of prayer, a Catholic family was illumined on Polish soil for their bravery during the dark hours of World War Two. The Ulmas – a simple farming family who, driven by their Christian values, hid Jews from the wrath of the Nazis – were honored at a beatification Mass, attended by an ocean of over 30,000 devout pilgrims. This solemn event marked the first instance of an entire family receiving beatification – a high honor that paves the path towards sainthood.

The Ulmas’ story is carved in the annals of 1944, in the quiet village of Markowa, nestled in south-eastern Poland. It was there that Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, hand-in-hand with their six young children, offered refuge to eight Jewish individuals – a selfless act that ultimately led to their betrayal and execution, along with their Jewish proteges, by the Nazis. Notably, the Ulmas’ courageous act of humanity stood in stark contrast to the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Poland, where anyone aiding Jews was summarily executed.

The Ulmas’ decision bore witness to the essence of humanity amidst the absurdity of war. Saul Goldman, 70, found sanctuary in the Ulmas’ attic along with his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim, Mojzesz, Golda Grunfeld, her sister Lea Didner and her daughter Reszla. However, their refuge was ephemeral. A year of stolen peace ended abruptly in 1944 when a Polish police officer allegedly betrayed the Ulma family. The family was rounded up, with Wiktoria, then seven months pregnant, and Jozef executed before the petrified eyes of their children, who themselves were brutally shot dead thereafter. In a twist of poetic justice, months later, Polish underground resistance executed the police officer believed to have tipped off the Nazis.

In the current day, the Ulmas’ martyrdom was remembered via an outdoor Mass led by Pope Francis’ envoy, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro. The Pope, addressing his faithful audience in the Vatican, described the Ulmas as a “ray of light” piercing the shadowy veil of wartime. The papal speech was broadcast live to the ceremony in Markowa, where President Andrzej Duda expressed his gratitude for the “extraordinary” beatification of the Ulma family, commending the Pope for illuminating the truth about Polish ordeal under German occupation.

The Ulmas’ recognition, however, did not begin with beatification. In 1995, Jozef and Wiktoria were posthumously awarded the title “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem, and in 2003, the beatification process for the sacrifice they made spiritedly embarked.

While the current Polish government has been scrutinized for supposedly rewriting history, focusing solely on Polish suffering and help rendered to Jewish individuals, the global veneration of the Ulma family at the beatification ceremony touched the heart of the Polish nation, reminding us that humanity’s potential for unparalleled courage and selfless love can indeed surface, even amidst the worst atrocities history has borne witness to.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.


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