Paying the Ultimate Price
Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma
The murder of the Ulma family – an entire family that was killed together with the Jews they were hiding – has become a symbol of Polish sacrifice and martyrdom during the German occupation.
Jozef Ulma was a farmer and amateur photographer who lived with his wife Wiktoria and their six young children in the small town of Markowa in the county of Lancut, Rzeszow District. Like other residents of Markowa, the Ulmas had witnessed the execution of the Jews from their small town in the summer of 1942. The Jews were taken out of their homes, shot, and buried in a former animal cemetery. Some managed to escape, and went into hiding in the surrounding area. In the fall of 1942, while the hunt for Jews by Germans and Poles was going on in the area, a Jewish family from Lancut by the name of Szall came to Markowa to find shelter. When they asked Josef and Wiktoria Ulma to hide them, the couple agreed, and took them in along with two Jewish sisters – Golda and Layka Goldman.
Although the Ulma house was on the outskirts of the town, the Jews’ presence on the farm was soon discovered. It is not certain who denounced them to the Germans, but there are reports that a policeman from Lancut by the name of Wlodzimierz Les, with whom the Szalls had left their belongings, turned them in in order to take over their property.
During the night of 23/24 March 1944, German police came to Markowa from Lancut. They found the Jews on the Ulma farm and shot them to death. Afterwards, they murdered the entire Ulma family – Jozef, Wiktoria, who was seven months pregnant, and their six small children: Stanislawa, Barbara, Wladyslawa, Franciszka, Maria and Antoni. The eldest child had just begun to attend classes in primary school.
Yehuda Erlich, was hiding in Sietesz only a few kilometers from Markowa and survived the war, described the immense impact of the murder of the Ulma family:
"These were hard times for them [Jan and Maria Wiglusz] and for us. Searches were conducted both by the Germans and the Polish peasants themselves, who wanted to find the hiding Jews. In the spring of 1944, a Jewish family was discovered hiding with Polish peasants. The Polish family – eight souls, including the pregnant wife – was killed with the refugees. As a result, there was enormous panic among other Polish peasants who were hiding Jews. The morning after, 24 corpses of Jews were discovered in the fields. They had been murdered by the peasants themselves, who had given them refuge for 20 months."
Other farmers, however continued to hide Jews, despite the terrible fear of discovery.
On September 13, 1995, Yad Vashem recognized Jozef Ulma and his wife, Wiktoria Ulma, as Righteous Among the Nations.