Vatican beatifies Polish family martyred for sheltering Jews during WWII

Polish family martyred

The Vatican has officially beatified a Polish family of nine.

The family included a pregnant mother and small children, whom the Nazis executed during World War II for their courageous act of sheltering Jews.

This beatification of the Ulma family took place on Sunday during a solemn Mass held in the village of Markowa in southeastern Poland.

Papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro led the ceremony, and Pope Francis addressed the crowd from St Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

Pope Francis said the Ulmas “represented a ray of light in the darkness” of the war and should be a model for everyone in “doing good and in the service of those in need.”

The Ulma family’s beatification is unique as it marks the first time the Catholic Church has recognised an entire family as martyrs.

On the fateful night of March 24, 1944 the Ulmas, along with the eight Jews they were hiding, were brutally killed by German Nazi troops and Nazi-controlled local police, allegedly after being betrayed.

Jozef Ulma, a 44-year-old farmer and Catholic activist, along with his 31-year-old pregnant wife Wiktoria and their young children Stanislawa, Barbara, Maria, Wladyslaw, Franciszek and Antoni, paid the ultimate price for their selfless act of hospitality.

The Nazis also murdered 70-year-old Saul Goldman and his sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim and Mojzesz, along with Golda Grunfeld, her sister Lea Didner and her little daughter Reszla.

Lt Eilert Dieken, the head of the regional Nazi military police, gave the orders for this horrific event. The suspected betrayer was identified as Wlodzimierz Les, a member of the Nazi-controlled local police.

Theological dilemma

The beatification of Wiktoria’s unborn child posed a theological dilemma for the Catholic Church, as the baby had not been baptised, a requirement for beatification.

However, the Vatican clarified that the child was born during the horrifying events and received “baptism by blood” from its martyred mother.

This beatification holds significant theological implications for the Catholic Church’s understanding of saints and martyrs, especially concerning unborn children.

The Vatican’s declaration that the child was “born” at the moment of the mother’s execution underscores the killers’ intent to target the child due to their faith, a key criterion for martyrdom and beatification.

The Ulma family’s journey to canonisation will require a miracle attributed to their intercession following the church’s sainthood process.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, all attended the beatification ceremony in Markowa. Thousands of pilgrims from across Poland also gathered to pay their respects.

Internationally, Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute recognised the Ulma family as Righteous Among Nations for their heroic efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.

In Poland, they stand as symbols of the bravery exhibited by thousands who risked their lives to assist Jews during the Nazi occupation.

A Museum of Poles Saving Jews During World War II was established in Markowa in 2016.


AP News


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