Poland is issuing commemorative coins to honor three Catholic-Polish families who were killed by the Nazis for having rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
The two coins to be issued March 15 by the National Bank of Poland honor the Ulma, Kowalski and Baranek families. The coins come in denominations of two zlotys, worth about 65 cents, and 20 zlotys, worth about $6.50.
On March 15, 1943, German auxiliary police discovered eight Jews hidden in the home of Wincenty and Łucja Baranek in the village of Siedliska. The police killed the Jews immediately and then shot the Baraneks and their two sons in the backs of their heads.
Adam and Bronisława Kowalski hid two Jewish neighbors in their house in the village of Ciepielow. Other Jews were hidden in other homes in the village.
In December 1942, the Kowalskis, their five children and the Jews they were hiding were among at least 34 people killed when Nazi police, after being tipped off, set fire to homes where Jews were believed to be hidden.
Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma hid eight Jews in the attic of their house in the village of Markowa for 18 months. After being informed on in 1944, the couple, their six children and the Jews they were hiding were killed.
Some 30,000 to 40,000 Jews survived the occupation of Poland because of such families, Jerzy Halbersztadt, the former director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews set to open next year, wrote in the official brochure for the coins.
“And although most of our fellow citizens did not know how to, or were unable to, resist the crimes, the accomplishments of the noblest and bravest people should give us the strength to cope with difficult problems in our history,” he wrote.