Józef Ulma lived in Markowa with his wife Wiktoria (nee Niemczak) and their six children: Stanisława, Barbara, Władysław, Franciszek, Antoni and Maria. He ran a farm with a fruit tree nursery. He was also involved in beekeeping, silkworm breeding and bookbinding. He also devoted himself with passion to photography. His achievements in these fields were known not only to the residents of Markowa, even Duke Andrzej Lubomirski himself took an interest in Józef Ulma’s work.
During the occupation, when persecution of Jews escalated, Józef helped Jews hiding in the forest to build a hiding place. In the autumn of 1942, the Ulma family took in eight Jewish people. They were: A Jew called Szall from Łańcut and his four sons, sisters from Markowa – Gołda and Layka Goldman, and Layka’s daughter. The Ulmas’ house was located at some distance from other buildings in the village and was a convenient place to hide. For this reason the Jews did not spend all their days in the attic, but joined in the work on the farm. The Szalls, together with Józef, also tanned hides.
The tragedy occurred on the night of 23-24 March 1944, as a result of a tip-off from a Blue Policeman, Władysław Lesio, who had helped the Shalls earlier himself. The Germans from Łańcut (Joseph Kokott, Michael Dziewulski, Erich Wilde) and Blue Policemen (among them Eustachy Kolman and Włodzimierz Leś) headed by the head of the Łańcut post Eilert Dieken, arrived at the Ulmas’ farm in a cart. First the Germans shot the Jews hidden in the attic. Then, in front of the house, they shot Józef and Wiktoria, and the unborn child she was carrying. Wiktoria was nine months pregnant at the time. The six terrified Ulma children began calling out for their parents. After conferring with the other gendarmes, Dieken gave the order to shoot them as well. Gendarme Joseph Kokott murdered three or four of the children. The oldest child, Stasia, was 7 years old and the youngest, Marysia, was 1.5 years old.
After the execution, the Germans plundered the property. The bodies were buried and the mayor of Markowa was present. Despite the prohibition, a few days later the bodies were dug up again and placed in coffins, which were buried in the same place as before. It was not until January 1945 that the bodies were unearthed again and moved to the cemetery in Markowa.
In 1995, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
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