67th anniversary of murdering the Ulmas and the Jews they were hiding

Maria Zawadzka, 24th March 2011
March 24th, 2011 is the 67th anniversary of the murder of the Ulma family and the eight Jews they were hiding. These tragic events took place in the village of Markowa near Łańcut (Podkarpackie province) at around 5 am.

In the fall of 1942 Józef Ulma and his wife Wiktoria née Niemczak, living with their six children, were asked for help by the Jewish Szall family – a father who came from Łańcut and was a cattle merchant before the war, and his four adult sons.

The Ulmas took them in. Shortly after that they also gave shelter to Gołda Goldman and her sister Lajka with her little daughter. Before the war the Goldmans were neighbors of Józef Ulma.

As Mateusz Szpytma from the Institute of National Remembrance established, it was probably a Blue Policeman from Łańcut, Włodzimierz Leś, who denounced the Ulmas. “At first he himself was helping the Szall family for money. After he took their belongings, he threw them away from their hiding place. As the Jews kept asking him to return their belongings, he decided to murder them. He found out they had found shelter at the Ulmas” – Szpytma told the Polish Press Agency.

At first Leś went to the Ulmas to check if they were indeed hiding the Szalls and he returned to their house together with the Germans on March 24th. Szpytma managed to establish his role in the Ulmas murder basing on the materials of the Polish Underground State and judicial documents from the fifties.

Szpytma carries on: “Four gendarmes went to Markowa together with four Blue Policemen. The group was conducted by the chief of the police station in Łańcut, lieutenant Eilert Dieken. Gendarmes Joseph Kokott, Michael Dziewulski and Erich Wilde were accompanying him. The personal details of only two of the Blue Policemen were established: Eustachy Kolman and Włodzimierz Leś".

On March 24th, 1944 at dawn the German gendarmes arrived to the house of the Ulmas, located on the outskirts of the village. At first two of the Szall brothers and Gołda Goldman were killed, after them the third brother, Lejka Goldman and her daughter, and finally the fourth brother and the Szall’s father. Later the Germans lead out Józef Ulma and his wife Wiktoria, who was in the last month of her pregnancy, in front of their house and shot all of them.

Afterwards, the policemen started to think what they should do with the children of the Ulmas. Dieken decided they should be killed too. That is how Staś, Basia, Władzio, Franuś, Antoś and Marysia were murdered. The oldest of them was 8 years old. Three or four were shot by Joseph Kokott.

After the murder, the gendarmes started robbing the house. “Kokott took Franciszek Szylar, one of the men brought to dig the grave, and ordered him – supervising him and shining his torch – to carefully search the murdered Jews. When Kokott noticed a box of valuables hidden by the corpse of Gołda Goldman, he said »That’s what I needed«, and put it in his pocket” – writes Mateusz Szpytma.

Only a few of the murderers of the Ulma family and the Jews they hid were found. “Right after the Soviet army entered, the underground movement executed the eager policeman, Leś. The chief of the group, lieutenant Eilert Dieken, avoided punishment. When incriminating evidence against him was gathered in the sixties, it turned out he had already died. It is hard to establish what happened to Dziewulski and Wilde” – explains Szpytma.

Joseph Kokott, hiding in Chechoslovakia, was found and judged in 1957. He was sentenced to capital punishment, but his punishment was later changed into life and then 25 years of prison.

Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were honored with the title of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1985. In 2003 started the process of beatification of the Ulmas – currently it is in its last phase and the diocesan stage has recently finished. The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in the Podkarpacie Region will be created in the village of Markowa near Łańcut until 2013.  More about the Ulma family