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New museum honours Poles killed for helping Jews in Holocaust

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MARKOWA, Poland — A museum honouring hundreds of Poles killed for helping Jews during the Holocaust is set to be formally opened Thursday by the nation’s president, Andrzej Duda.

The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews, in the village of Markowa, opens at the site in southern Poland where Germans killed an entire family for sheltering Jews in 1944. The victims included Jozef Ulma and his wife Wiktoria, who was seven months pregnant, their six small children, and eight Jews in hiding.

It is Poland’s first memorial devoted to the Christians who helped Jews during the war, an act punishable in Poland by the immediate execution of helpers and their entire families.

Israel’s Holocaust remembrance institute, Yad Vashem, has bestowed the title of the Righteous Among the Nations on some 6,600 Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust ‚Äî more than any other nationality.

It is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 Poles were killed for defying German decrees of 1941 and 1942 that banned any aid for Jews.

The new museum was an initiative of regional authorities but supported by the national government and cost some 8 million zlotys ($2 million; 1.9 million euros). It focuses largely on the tragic fate of the Ulmas, but is also meant as a way to honour and remember all of the Poles who died helping Jews.

In 1995, Yad Vashem posthumously bestowed the title of the Righteous Among the Nations on the Ulmas. Yad Vashem said the Ulma family “has become a symbol of Polish sacrifice and martyrdom during the German occupation.”

In 2003 the Catholic Church opened a beatification process for the Ulmas, which is still underway.

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