Pope Proclaims Polish Couple Who Hid Jews Martyrs

Francis honors Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 18, 2022 3:50 PM CST
Pope Honors Polish Couple Killed in 1944 for Hiding Jews
Pope Francis poses for a picture during an audience with children on Sunday at the Vatican.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis has declared a Polish couple executed by German police during World War II for hiding Jews in their farmhouse martyrs. A farmer and beekeeper, Jozef Ulma, and his wife, Wiktoria, in the Polish town of Markowa hid several members of the Jewish community, who were being hunted down during the German occupation of Poland. An informant apparently betrayed them, and the Jews were killed by police in March 1944. The couple were then shot to death along with their six young children, the oldest of whom was 8 years old, per the AP.

Recognition of martyrdom would permit the couple to be beatified, the last formal step before possible sainthood. After beatification, a miracle attributed to their intercession would be necessary for eventual canonization, as the Catholic Church's sainthood process is called. According to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, the couple had witnessed the execution of Jews who were seized from their homes during the summer of 1942. While the search was on for other Jews, a Jewish family of six sought shelter with the Ulmas, who took them in, along with two sisters from another Jewish family, hiding them in the garret of their farmhouse. German police discovered the Jews and fatally shot them, then killed the farmer, his wife, who was seven months pregnant, and children.

According to the Vatican, Pope Francis learned about the Ulma family when he visited Poland on a 2016 pilgrimage. At a public audience in 2018, Francis hailed the family as "an example of faithfulness to God and His commandments, of love for neighbor and of respect for human dignity." Poland was the first country invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II. Members of Poland’s resistance and government-in-exile warned the world about the Nazis' mass killing of Jews, and thousands of Poles risked their lives to help Jews—even though other Poles murdered or victimized their Jewish compatriots. Nearly all of Poland’s roughly 3 million Jews were killed by the Germans and collaborators during the Holocaust, and the Nazis built their major death camps in occupied Poland.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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