Polish family murdered for helping Jews may be beatified

Darek Delmanowicz/PAP

Pope Francis has recognised the martyrdom of a married couple with seven children who were executed by Nazi Germans for sheltering a Jewish family in their home in Poland during World War Two.

On Saturday, the pope signed a decree on the martyrdom of Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, who were executed along with all their children in 1944.

With the recognition of their martyrdom by the pope, the Polish couple can now be beatified along with their seven children, including one unborn.

Reacting to the news, President Andrzej Duda Duda wrote on Twitter: "For helping and hiding Jews, the Ulma family was murdered by the German occupiers. Their heroism is a symbol, and the memory of them will last. The Holy Father approved the decree on the martyrdom of the Ulma family, which opens the way for their beatification."

Early on March 24, 1944, a Nazi patrol surrounded the home of Ulma family in the village of Markowa in southern Poland, where Wiktoria and Jozef hid eight Jews. For this they were executed together with their six children and the Jewish fugitives. At the time of her execution, Wiktoria Ulma was eight months pregnant, her eldest daughter was eight years old.

In 1995, Jozef and Wiktoria were posthumously awarded with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The medals are awarded by the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem Institute to individuals and families who risked their own lives and the lives of their loved ones to rescue Jews from the Holocaust

In 2010, late President Lech Kaczynski distinguished them with the Commander's Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order.

On March 17, 2016, the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War Two, the first Polish museum honouring Poles who rescued Jews, was opened in Markowa.

In 2018, on the initative of President Andrzej Duda, Poland's parliament established March 24 as the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Rescuing Jews under German occupation to commemorate the day in 1944 when Nazi Germans executed the entire Ulma family.