File photo of several members of the Ulma family File photo of several members of the Ulma family 

Archbishop Gądecki: Ulma family a ‘symbol of Poles rescuing Jews’

The upcoming beatification of the Ulma family highlights the heroism of Polish people who rescued Jews during World War II, according to Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops' Conference.

By Paweł Rozwód – Warsaw

The Ulma family, whose beatification is scheduled for 10 September, has become “a symbol of Poles who rescued Jews during World War II," according to Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki.

In an interview with Vatican News, the President of the Polish Bishops' Conference shared his thoughts on how the upcoming beatification strengthens Catholic-Jewish relations.

Archbishop Gądecki explained that the Ulma family was executed by Nazi Germans on 24 March 1944, for harboring Jews.

“Two parents and seven children were murdered,” he said. “This tragic event is now unprecedented in the history of the Church, since it is the first time an entire family is being beatified together.”

Unbounded solidarity

Discussing the significance of the Ulmas' beatification, Archbishop Gądecki highlighted the theme of human solidarity, emphasizing the willingness to help others even when it involves risking our own lives.

The President of the Polish Bishops’ stressed that the Ulmas were aware of the risks they were taking by hiding Jews.

"This family must have realized that even though they lived at some distance from the village, they put themselves in great danger from the Germans by sheltering several people in the attic of their house,” said Archbishop Gądecki. “The Ulma children did not fully understand the situation and may have accidentally told the wrong people. The need to make larger food purchases at the store may have also drawn the interest of outsiders.”

He pointed out that other families also assisted, resulting in 21 survivors in the village, highlighting the solidarity of the community.

Archbishop Gądecki noted that the Ulmas' actions were rooted in their Christian love and upbringing in the Catholic faith, which is deeply rooted in Polish tradition.

“Their actions also confirm their respect for every life from conception to natural death,” he added. “They knew that every life must be protected, and they made the ultimate sacrifice for it.”

Heroism in face of danger

He asserted that the Ulma family symbolizes the Poles who rescued Jews during World War II, even though almost 1,000 Poles were executed for doing so, underlining the heroism of those who risked their lives to help others.

“The situation in Poland was incomparable to other countries,” said Archbishop Gądecki. “Poles faced the death penalty for helping Jews. Clearly, there were also infamous attitudes and deeds. However, these cannot overshadow the heroism of those who risked their lives to help others. In the end, the measure of society is not what some criminals do, but the deeds of noble people.”

Archbishop Gądecki emphasized that the beatification of the Ulma family contributes to deepening Catholic-Jewish relations and strengthening the bond between Poles and the Jewish people.

"These were crucial issues for St. John Paul II,” he said. “He grew up in a school that Jewish children also attended. Also, in his later years, he had many Jewish acquaintances and friends. He also met with them as Pope, and we saw the fruits in the commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.”

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07 September 2023, 22:13