Nation Day of Remembrance of Poles Saving Jews Under German Occupation

Redakcja/Editorial Staff, English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 20th March 2022
On 24th March 2022, for the fifth time, we will observe the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Saving Jews Under German Occupation. The date is linked to the tragic fate, 78 tears ago, of the Ulma family, and the Jews whom they were hiding, in the village of Markowa in the Rzeszów region. The POLIN Museum commemorates Poles who saved Jews, during the Holocaust, through its Polish Righteous website. This website contains almost 1,000 stories of relief and details the diversity of Polish society's attitudes towards Jews during the Holocaust. Check out the website to see what we have prepared to commemorate this year's Day of Remembrance.

“In tribute to Polish citizens – heroes who, in an act of heroic courage, extraordinary bravery, compassion and interpersonal solidarity, faithful to the highest ethical values, the dictates of Christian charity and the ethos of the Republic of Poland, saved their Jewish neighbours from the Holocaust, which was planned and implemented by the German occupiers” – from the introduction of legislation signed by the President of the Republic of Poland.

This day of commemoration, the purpose of which is to honour all those who risked their lives to aid Jews during the German occupation (1939-1945), was established, in 2018, at the initiative of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda.

The date, selected for this annual commemoration, refers to the tragic story of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, their six children and the eight Jews whom, for almost two years, the Ulma family were hiding in the attic of their home in the village of Markow in the Rzeszów region. Among those in hiding were Saul Goldman and his four sons (whose names are unknown), as well as the two daughters and granddaughter of Chaim Goldman of Markow – Lea (Layca) Didner, with her daughter (name unknown) and Genia (Gołda) Grünfeld.

Seventy-eight years ago, on 24th March 1944, the Germans murder the Ulma family and the Jews hiding in their home. This crime took place following a search, which was probably the result of a denunciation by a Polish (navy blue) policeman.

Commemoration of the 2022 Day of Remembrance: a study of aid in Ukraine, the story of crimes in Słonim, a discussion at the Museum

“Before the executions, the victims were ordered to undress. Father [Adam] Sztarek obeyed the order, while the sister [Ewa and Marta] hesitated, embarrassed. Then the priest […] said, ‘Jesus was also exposed’ […]”, said Zofia Poczebyt, years later. She was a witness to these events which occurred on 19th December 1942.

On its Polish Righteous website, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews commemorates Poles, who saved Jews during the Holocaust. The website provides access to almost 1,000 stories of aid and details the differing attitudes of Polish society towards Jews during the Holocaus. Each year, marking the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Saving Jews During German Occupation, we present the stories of Polish men and women, who were affected by the most severe German repression – the death penalty for helping Jews.

Grafika z okazji Narodowego Dnia Pamięci Polaków ratujących Żydów pod okupacją niemiecką; widoczne zdjęcia przedstawiające Wiktorię i Józefa Ulmów

This year, faced with the war in Ukraine, we pay special attention to the stories of Poles helping Jews in, what is today, within Ukraine. In a special study, we discuss the phenomenon of aid provided in Ukraine  [premiere 24th March], taking into account the diversity of attitudes, towards the Holocaust, of various nationalities and ethnic groups. The symbol of the Holocaust in this area is Babi Yar - a groge in Kiev, the site of mass executions in 1941-1943. A few weeks ago – in February 2022 – it was bombed during the Russian invasion. The President of Ukraine, Volodymir Zełenski, wrote on Twitter: 

“To the world: What is the point of saying, for eighty years, ‘no more [war]’, if the world is silent as bombs fall on the same place where Babi Yar is located? [There are] at least five killed. History is repeating itself.”

Referring to the 80th anniversary of the crime in Słonim, in Polesie (today, in Belarus), we have supplemented our catalogue of stories of Poles with the story of Father Adam Sztarek and those who helped him – Sisters Ewa (Bogumiła Noiszewska) and Marta (Kazimiera Wołowska) [premiere 24th March], who perished at the hands of the Germans in December 1942.

In addition, on the eve of the Day of Remembrance, we invite you to the first in the discussion cycle about the Polish Righteous. We will talk about who the Righteous were, what has happened to the legacy and about who, today, deserves that title. The first online discussion which feature this topic from a historical perspective. Participants will include Dr Agnieszka Haska of Jewish Holocaust Research Centre IFIS PAN, Ewa Juńczyk-Ziomecka of the Jan Karski Education Foundation and Dr Bartłomiej Krupa of the Institute of Literary Research PAN. Chairman will lbe Dr Michał Trębacz, head of the Academic Department of the POLIN Museum. Transmission will commence on 23rh March at 7:30pm on POLIN Museum's Facebook page.

The official commemoration of the National Day of Remembrance of Poles Saving Jews Under German Occupation is organised for March 23rd-24th by the  Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa. The program includes the laying of flowers and lighting of candles at the Ulma Family monument in the Memorial Garden, a concert dedicated to the Polish Righteous Among the Nations and a fundraiser for Ukraine.

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