Unveiling of a plaque devoted to the CALLED BY NAME at the Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa - Instytut Pileckiego

Unveiling of a plaque devoted to the CALLED BY NAME at the Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa

On Sunday, 3 September 2023, at the Orchard of Remembrance at the Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II in Markowa (Subcarpathia), a plaque was unveiled to symbolically include the family of Wiktoria and Józef Ulma in the “Called by Name” program.

Recording of the ceremony in Polish (click here)
Recording of the ceremony in English (click here)

During the ceremony, the Deputy President of the Institute of National Remembrance, Dr. Mateusz Szpytma, spoke as a relative of Wiktoria Ulma. He thanked the Pilecki Institute for fostering memory about Poles saving Jews during World War II. He emphasized the uniqueness of the Institute’s initiative, which brings together the families of persons who were saving Jews, thus enabling the integration of the community.

Photo. Dr. Mateusz Szpytma (on the left), Jerzy Ulma, nephew of Józef Ulma

Present in Markowa was also Ellen Goldman, a descendant of the Jews hiding in Markowa during World War II. In her emotional speech, she revealed that it was her first visit to Poland, although she had always wanted to see the country of her ancestors. She said that her father, Aron Goldman, was born in 1912 in Kańczuga; his parents were Haim Goldman and Ita Goldman from Markowa. Ita’s family had a inn at the crossroads in Markowa.

“In 1913, my grandfather took the first steps towards moving his family to the Unites States in search of a new life, free of persecution. In 1914, my grandmother and her five sons, including my father, joined my grandfather in New York,” said Goldman.

She added that her parents rarely discussed the Holocaust. “They were afraid that these stories would be too harrowing for us, so when I asked my father about Markowa, all he was able to tell me was that nothing was left there.”

Goldman emphasized that it was only later that she understood that the entire Jewish community, including many members of her father’s family who had stayed in Poland, were murdered by the Germans.

She said that when she began to research her family tree, she discovered the tragic fates of her relatives and of the Ulma family.

“At the time I didn’t know that five out of eight Jews who were hiding with the Ulmas were members of my own family. They were Saul Goldman and his four sons. When I learned about it, everything I had heard about this event became even more painful and tragic to me. I realized that if my grandparents hadn’t left Poland, I probably wouldn’t have been here today,” she stressed.

Ellen Goldman said that she found it comforting that “during those horrible times, amid this unspeakable tragedy, there were individuals and whole families, such as the Ulma family, who had the courage to do what they believed was right.” She added that “one of such families was the Szylar family, who lived in Markowa near the Ulmas. My cousins, the Weltz family, asked the Szylars for help in finding shelter. And they agreed to help,” she said.

Ellen Goldman

(Pictured above are Ellen Goldman and Deborah Clein Stein – relatives of the Weltz family, who found shelter at the Szylars’ house during the war, and of the Goldman family, who were murdered together with the Ulmas – and Eugeniusz Szylar with his wife. They are standing in front of his family home, where the Jewish family of Weltz was hiding during the war.)

The Szylars knew what befell the Ulmas and the Jews whom they were hiding, but they still continued to hide the Weltzs.

“We are gathered here today to honor the Ulmas and the Szylars, who risked their own lives to help their Jewish neighbors,” said Ellen Goldman.

She observed that these people put into practice the teachings of both Christianity and Judaism that “all God’s creatures are equal.” Goldman emphasized that the best way to honor the Ulma family would be to remove all traces of anti-Semitism.

Source: Polish Press Agency

“On behalf of the Ulma family, as the nephew of Józef Ulma, I would like to thank and congratulate the Institute for this wonderful undertaking. I had the opportunity to meet great people, whose relatives – just like Wiktoria, Józef and their children – were saving Jews,” said Jerzy Ulma, the nephew of Józef Ulma, during the ceremony.

A letter from the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, to the participants of the ceremony was read out by Prof. Magdalena Gawin, Director of the Pilecki Institute.

The President emphasized that September 1939 marked the beginning of mass crimes and persecution. He added that the most tragic fate befell Jews in occupied Poland and Europe. “Genocide against the Jewish nation is one of the biggest crimes in history,” stressed the President. According to Andrzej Duda, Poles who were rescuing Jews during the German occupation “are our national heroes, exactly like those who fought arms in hand.”

A letter to the participants was also written by the Speaker of the Polish Sejm, Elżbieta Witek, who emphasized that many of those who were helping Jews during World War II remain unknown to this day. “The memory about them is now lost in the deluge of conflicting information. It is also being obliterated by the passage of time. It is important, therefore, that the truth about the Polish people – who, despite extreme circumstances, amidst the hatred of the Holocaust, were rescuing their fellow citizens of Jewish origin – is inscribed in the general consciousness, not only in Poland,” wrote Witek.

The Voivod of the Podkarpackie Voivodeship, Ewa Leniart, read out the letter from Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who pointed out that in Poland, helping Jews during World War II was punishable by death. He added that such laws “constituted an assault on humanity and were intended to curb all natural feelings of pity.” Morawiecki wrote that “as part of the Called by Name program, the Pilecki Institute presents the heroic deeds of people who thwarted these attempts. This is an invaluable project.”

As the Prime Minister emphasized, the ceremony should serve as an incentive to further work aimed at bringing back the memory about people who were saving Jews.