MARKOWA, Poland (LifeSiteNews) — A Polish family of nine, executed by Nazi occupiers for hiding Jews, have been beatified as martyrs.
On September 10, the Ulma family were beatified in their home village of Markowa, where they had been murdered by Nazi soldiers in 1944. The Prefect of the Dicastery (formerly Congregation) for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, presided over the beatification Mass. Seven other cardinals and 1,000 priests concelebrated the Holy Mass, and 32,000 faithful were in attendance, according to Vatican News.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and the leader of the ruling PiS party, Jarosław Kaczyński, were also present at the beatification Mass.
The beatified family members include parents Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, as well as their seven young children: Stanisława, Barbara, Władysław, Franciszek, Antoni, Maria, and an unnamed child reportedly born during his mother’s execution.
Semeraro called the Ulma family “a model to imitate in our efforts to do good and serve those who are in need.”
In his homily at the beatification Mass, the cardinal said that their family home became “an inn where the despised, outcast, and death-stricken was welcomed and cared for.”
He stated that Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma lived “a holiness that was not only marital but was fully embedded in their entire family.”
Semeraro also talked about the unnamed child with whom Wiktoria Ulma was still pregnant when the Nazis came to their house in Markowa.
“Without ever having uttered a word, today the little Blessed cries out to the modern world to welcome, love, and protect life, especially that of the defenseless and marginalized, from the moment of conception until natural death,” he said.
The child’s “innocent voice seeks to shake the consciences of a society where abortion, euthanasia, and contempt for life seen as a burden and not a gift are rampant,” Semeraro added.
An unprecedented beatification
The beatification of the Ulma family is unique as it marks the first time an entire family is so honored together, at least since the formalization of the canonization process. It is also the first time an unborn or newborn child was beatified as a martyr.
While the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints stated in a note that the unnamed child “was born at the time of his mother’s martyrdom,” others, like the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements, have argued that the child should be considered an unborn baby.
In a statement, the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements wrote, “This is a historical event, unprecedented in the history of the Church, when, in accordance with the decision of Pope Francis, the entire family is beatified: the spouses and their seven children, including the youngest child living under his mother’s heart.”
“Recognizing a child in its mother’s womb as a blessed is a manifestation of its full humanity,” the Polish pro-life group stated. “According to the statement of Father Dr. Witold Burda, the postulator of the beatification process of the Ulma family, their neighbors – Franciszek Szylar and his son Eugeniusz – testify that a few days after the first brutal burial of members of the Ulma family, when transferring Wiktoria Ulma body to the coffin, the baby was already in the mother’s birth canal – the head and shoulder were visible.”
The pro-life organization argued that the child was likely not born alive and could, therefore, be considered to have died “unborn.”
“It is very unlikely that the child was born alive, which means the activation of a second blood circulation and the ability to breathe on [his] own, as well as cutting the umbilical cord.”
“We don’t know what gender this child is, nor do we know [his] name. Therefore, it is right to call [him] an UNBORN CHILD.”
“We express great gratitude to the Holy Father Francis for the historic decision to beatify the Ulma Family,” the Polish pro-life group said. “[I]ncluding the unnamed, conceived child of the blessed martyr and his entire family.”
“This shows the whole world the undeniable truth of the full humanity of the Child in the mother’s womb.”
The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints confirmed that the unnamed child received “baptism of blood” through the martyrdom of his parents. Baptism of blood is a substitute for sacramental baptism of water, through which the grace of justification can be earned by suffering martyrdom for Christ.
The story of the Ulma family
The Ulma family had a small farm in the Polish village of Markowa. Jozef Ulma was also an amateur photographer and Catholic activist. According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the Ulmas took in eight Jews around December 1942, and the refugees lived in the house’s attic for over a year.
On March 24, 1944, German Nazi policemen arrived at the Ulma family house and found the Jews hiding in the attic. The family was likely betrayed by a member of the local Polish police, which the Nazis controlled at the time. The Nazis shot and killed the eight Jews before murdering the entire Ulma family, massacring 17 people in total.
Only one of the murderers, Josef Kokott, was convicted in Poland and sentenced to prison, dying behind bars in 1980. The head of the Nazi military police in the region, Lt. Eilert Dieken, who gave the orders to murder the Jews and the Ulmas, was not convicted, according to the Associated Press. However, the Polish policeman who betrayed the Ulmas to the Nazis was sentenced to death and executed by Poland’s wartime resistance in September 1944, according to the Institute of National Remembrance.
March 24, the day of the Ulma family’s martyrdom, was designated as “Poles Who Rescued Jews Under German Occupation Remembrance Day” by Polish President Andrzej Duda in 2018.