Polish family who sheltered Jews, murdered by Nazis in WWII beatified by Catholic Church

On Sunday, the Catholic Church beatified Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children as martyrs because they were killed in March 1944 by the Nazis after it was discovered they were hiding eight Jewish people in their attic. 

In a post on X, Pope Francis announced, "Today in Markowa, Poland, the martyrs Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, with their 7 children, were beatified." He continued, "An entire family exterminated by the Nazis on 24 March 1944 for having given shelter to some persecuted Jews."

"May this Polish family, which represented a ray of light in the darkness of the Second World War, be for all of us a model to imitate in zeal for goodness and service to those in need," the Pope added. 

Józef and Wiktoria Ulm were farmers in the town of Markowa in 1942 when the Nazi police came to arrest and deport Jewish families from the town. The police warned anyone found hiding Jewish people on their property would be executed, but the Ulmas did so anyway. 

On March 24, 1944, German police were tipped off by a neighbor to the Ulmas action and they shot all of the Jewish people that had been living there. They had some of the villagers watch as they executed Józef and Wiktoria followed by the children. 

According to Walks of Italy, beatification is the next step before sainthood, and to be considered it has to be determined that the person is definitely in heaven, and can plead to God on behalf of someone who prays to them. 

The Church had to look into the reasons why the Ulmas risked their lives. According to the Catholic World Report, they determined it was not for money as they were poor, and one of those they hid was found with a box of jewelry at death. They also found the parents had underlined passages in their Bible about sacrificing for others, so the Church took that as the Józef and Wiktoria were using it to explain to their children why they were helping their neighbors. 

The Church also requires a person to either be martyred or cause a miracle after death before one can be blessed with beatification. The Ulm family was deemed to have been martyred after the family was killed along with the eight Jewish people they were hiding. According to the National Catholic Register, Wiktoria is also thought to have gone into labor with her seventh child during the massacre, with witnesses claiming they saw a newborn baby beside her body. 

“We give thanks for the example of the Ulma family’s life. Their gift of life is a sign for us that sometimes we have to sacrifice our lives to save other people. Today we are asking for the gift of their beatification,” Archbishop Adam Szal of Przemyśl presided said at the start of the canonization process. 


Image: Title: Ulmas
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