Ulma family. From Mateusz Szpytma, The Risk of Survival, The Institute of National Remembrance 2009. Source
This excellent article details how the Ulma's risking their lives, and the lives of their seven children, to save Jews from the Holocaust, was a choice deeply rooted in their Polish, Catholic, peasant spirituality. As the article puts it,
"'The Commandment of Love – The Good Samaritan' – under such a title these very words can be found in the bible which Józef and Wiktoria Ulma owned. It's one of the two fragments to be found in the bible marked in red – most probably by Józef Ulma himself (the other one regards loving enemies). With their own life and death they proved these words did not remain an empty slogan for them. Both, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, together with their six children and eight Jews of the Szall and Goldman families they were hiding, were executed by the Germans on March 24, 1944."
Wiktoria was pregnant at the time. A Pole who reburied her testified that her child was discovered partially outside of her body. Thus, one counts seven Ulma children lost to Nazism.
Yad Vashem tells the Ulma story quite differently than does the Am-Pol Eagle. I sent Yad Vashem an email taking them to task for their account of the Ulmas. My email, rapidly composed and no doubt imperfect because it is written in pained outrage, is below. I hope others of conscience will also write to Yad Vashem. Here is an email address: feedback [at] yadvashem [dot] org.il
Dear Yad Vashem:
Of course, like good people everywhere, I honor and respect the terrific and tragically necessary work that Yad Vashem does. God bless you.
I'm writing today with a complaint, however. This morning I had a look at your webpage devoted to the Ulma family, who were martyred for protecting Jews.
Rather than beginning your page with a salute to this incomparably heroic and loving family, you begin with a racist smear against Poles.
All responsible persons acknowledge that there was significant anti-Semitism in Poland in the interwar, wartime, and post-war era. I'm not writing to you to deny that. All responsible persons know that we must discuss and understand this anti-Semitism. I'm not asking you to hide Polish anti-Semitism. In fact, I invite you to read "Bieganski," my own book's, frank discussion of anti-Semitism in Poland.
I'm writing, rather, to say that by opening your page devoted to the Ulmas with an unsupported statement charging that most Poles were indifferent or hostile to Jewish Holocaust victims (how on earth do you know?) you are not honoring the Ulmas, rather, you are dishonoring them.
In a blog entry devoted to my own book, "Bieganski," I discuss the work of Jewish, Israeli professor Jackie Feldman. Dr. Feldman points out that those Jews who would stereotype all Poles as evil manipulate accounts of Polish rescuers of Jews. This blog entry is here.
Unfortunately, Yad Vashem, in your webpage devoted to the Ulmas, you do exactly that. Rather than opening with, and emphasizing, the Ulmas heroism, you depict them, as Dr. Feldman mentions, as lone and anomalous heroes in a sea of Polish monsters. You state categorically, with no support, that most Poles were indifferent to the Holocaust, and you immediately invoke the massacre of Jews by Poles in Jedwabne.
In fact the Ulmas were were true Poles, born and raised in Poland, and acting on Polish, Catholic ideals.
I would like you to consider the following. In the blog devoted to my book, I talk about Jews who have been heroic supporters of Poland. I do that in this series of posts.
How would you feel, my friends, if I began that series of posts by saying, as you do about the Ulmas, "While most Jews held goyim in contempt, some Jews actually went against the grain of their culture and loved and supported Poland." I would NEVER make such a statement, a statement analogous to your statement about the Ulmas. I would never make such a statement because to do so would be a false, hatemongering lie.
Further, as you invoke Jedwabne, what if, every time I talked about Jews, I said something like this: "Many Jews betrayed Poles to the Soviets." Or, "Many Jews joined the Soviets and tortured Polish heroes after WW II."
Sadly, these are facts. Many Jews did betray Poles to the Soviets, and Jews, under the Soviets, did torture Polish heroes after WW II.
But to mention those complicated and troubling facts every time I talk about Jews who served Poland would be a terrible error. It would be racist.
It is no less a racist error for you to invoke Jedwabne in the first paragraph of your "salute" to the heroic Ulma family, who gave their lives for Jews and who do not deserve this smear.
If you can see how wrong it would be for me to open a web page devoted to talking about Jews who loved and served Poland by saying, "While most Jews held goyim in contempt," or "Under the Soviets, Jews tortured Poles," can you not see why it is very wrong for you to open a page devoted to the Ulmas with a statement about how most Poles were supportive of the Holocaust, or an invocation of Jedwabne?
Further, you do not mention that the Polish underground executed Wlodzimierz Les for his crime of collaborating with the Nazis, including his crime of betraying the Ulmas and the Jews they sheltered. By failing to mention this act of justice carried out by Poles, you contribute to the image of the Ulmas as lone decent people in a sea of Polish monsters.
You mention, but don't emphasize, that in spite of the horrendous massacre of the Ulma family and their Jewish charges, some in their village actually continued to shelter Jews. This is superhuman heroism.
In the name of human decency, please think about this, and please change your shameful page. The work you are doing to commemorate Holocaust victims is much more important than this kind of petty hate.
A photograph, by Jozef Ulma, of a Polish peasant home. Source.