Poland’s PM honors citizens who helped Jews during Holocaust
WARSAW, Poland – Polish President Andrzej Duda took part in national observances Friday to honor Poles who risked – and often lost – their lives trying to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Duda spoke at a memorial site in Markowa, a village in southeastern Poland where on March 24, 1944 Nazi forces shot and killed a farmer, his pregnant wife and six children along with eight Jews whose family was hiding on their farm.
Pope Francis announced members of the Ulma family as martyrs. In Poland, they are a symbol of the bravery of the Poles who took the greatest risk while helping Jews during the Second World War.
Speaking at the Polish Museum Markowa Saved Jews During the Second World War, Duda noted that there were many families in the region and throughout Poland who hid Jews, in many cases to ensure their survival.
The names of the Ulmas and other families engraved on a plaque show that there were many people “who behaved in a reasonable way, whose love for their brothers, their Christian values and ethics were stronger than the fear of death, not only their own , but also. for their families,” said Duda.
After invading Poland on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germans punished any kind of assistance to Jews by killing the helpers and their families.
However, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, lists more than 7,200 Poles as people who took risks to save Jews.
Publications made by historians in recent years have also led to bitter debates about those Poles who became Jewish neighbors, or who participated in the killing or victimization of Jews.
Disagreements over aspects of Poland’s behavior during the Holocaust have created tension between Poland and Israel over the years.
However, the two countries took a major step toward ending a multifaceted diplomatic crisis on Wednesday, when the two countries’ foreign ministers signed an agreement to immediately allow Israeli youth Holocaust tours to Poland to resume. No details were given on the contents of the agreement.
Approximately three million of the estimated 3.3 million Jews who lived in pre-World War II Poland were killed during the Holocaust as well as nearly three million non-Jewish Poles.
The Nazis built large death camps, including Auschwitz, in Poland.