Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII in Markowa, Poland February 2, 2018.
(photo credit: JUSTYNA PAWLAK / REUTERS)
Poland on Saturday observed its first-ever National Remembrance Day for Poles Who Saved Jews during World War II.
The new national holiday was the initiative of Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Earlier this month the senate approved a resolution making March 24 the date on which to mark it, because that is when, in 1944, Nazis murdered the Ulma family – Józef, Wiktoria, and their six children – in Markowa, in southeastern Poland. The family had been hiding Jews, who were also killed that day.
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In 1995, Yad Vashem posthumously bestowed the titles of Righteous Among the Nations upon Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, presenting their medals to Józef’s surviving brother Władysław.
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On March 17, 2016, the Museum of Poles Rescuing Jews was opened in Markowa. The main Remembrance Day events on Saturday were held in Markowa, but additional events of various kinds were held across the country, including film screenings and exhibitions.
Over 6,000 Poles have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations, more than from any other country.
The Polish parliament had been scheduled to discuss the proposal of the new Remembrance Day in February, but postponed it until March due to bad timing in light of tensions between Poland and Israel over the new Holocaust law.
The contentious legislation criminalizes suggestions of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes during the Holocaust.
The vote was 58 senators in favor of the national remembrance day, including 51 from the ruling Law and Justice party; 14 senators against, including 13 from the center-right Civic Platform party; and three abstentions.
Holocaust survivors protest at the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv against a law prohibiting the mention of Poland's involvement in the Holocaust, February 8, 2018. (Avshalom Sassoni)
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