Museum of Poles Rescuing Jews opened in Markowa

Krzysztof Bielawski, 18th March 2016
The Ulma Family Museum of Poles who Rescued Jews during WWII was established in the village of Markowa in Podkarpacie region, where the family of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma hid 8 Jews in their attic.

Józef Ulma owned farmland in Markowa. He was a social activist and passionate photographer. His wife Wiktoria bore him 6 children. In the autumn of 1942, Saul Goldman with his 4 sons found refuge at the Ulmas' household. Soon, the family's neighbours – Golda Grünfeld with her sister Leah Didner and her little daughter – joined the Goldmans in the hideout.

At dawn of 24 March 1944 German gendarmes and members of the Blue Police from Łańcut arrived in Markowa. They found the Jews hiding in the attic. The reaction was immediate: Józef, Wiktoria, their 6 children and all the Jews were shot dead on the spot. Wiktoria was 9 months pregnant. The action was a result of the denouncement by Włodzimierz Leś, a Blue policeman.

More residents of Markowa provided help to Jews during the war as well. Overall, 21 people found refuge in the village.

The opening ceremony was attended by several hundred people. The guests of honour included President of Poland Andrzej Duda, Righteous Among the Nations and descendants of the Rescued.

"People who promote hatred among the nations, who spead anti-Semitism, trample the grave of the Ulma family. They tarnish the memory of their deed and their grim fate," President Duda said in his speech.

"On behalf of Polish Righteous, I would like to extend thanks to the prime movers of the Museum for commemorating noble and brave men who were granted the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel," Anna Stupnicka-Bando from the Polish Society of Righteous Among the Nations said. "I do hope that thanks to this initiative, the memory of these people will live forever".

The speech delievered by 86 years old Abraham Isaac Segal from Haifa, rescued by Jan and Helena Cwynar from Markowa, was transmitted during the ceremony. He survived, owing to their help, and has 25 descendants. His children and grandchildren were present at the opening ceremony. "It is vital that Poland commemorates the Righteous, martyrs of the Nazi regime. They fell victims of their own righteousness," Abraham Isaac Segal said.

The building of the newly opened Museum was consecrated by Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki and Archbishop Józef Michalik. A moment later, Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, attached a mezuzah to the door frame – a replica of the mezuzah at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

"Mezuzah should be present in each Jewish house," Rabbi Schudrich said. "When I was asked to attach the mezuzah at the Museum I immediately thought 'Sure!', because this Museum is a symbol of our common house.

In 2008, councillors of the Podkarpacie Province decided a museum should be erected in Markowa to commemorate the help extended to Jews by Poles. The construction was financed by the local government, supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the local authority of Markowa County. The project was delivered by Nizio Design International. The exhibition was produced in cooperation with th Institute of National Remembrance and the History Department of the University of Rzeszów.

The museum building alludes to the design of a village house, such as the one belonging to the Ulma family. It houses a multimedia exhibition dedicated to rescuing Jews in the Podkarpacie region. The issues of infamous incidents, denouncements and the problem of shmaltzovniks – people who denounced Poles extending help to Jews - in occupied Poland are also raised. In the future, the exhibition is planned to cover the cases of rescue in other regions of Poland as well. The Museum also plans to organize eductional workshops for schools.

Plaques with names of Poles who rescued Jews, including those murdered by Germans for providing help, were placed in front of the Museum.