DEFYING THE NAZIS: THE SHARPS’ WAR, a new documentary co-directed by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky about a little-known but important mission by an American minister and his wife to rescue refugees and dissidents in Europe before and after the start of World War II, will air on September 20 at 9 pm (check local listings) on PBS. Join the conversation with #SharpsWarPBS.
|Artemis Joukowski and Ken Burns promote Defying the Nazis|
The 90-minute film tells the story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a Unitarian minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish and boldly committed to multiple life-threatening missions in Europe. The couple provided relief to embattled groups, raised money for refugee aid and smuggled Nazi targets, including children, out of the country. They are two of the five Americans who have been inducted by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, as Righteous Among the Nations.
|Waitstill and Martha Sharp on grandson's bookcover|
Over two dangerous years they helped to save hundreds of imperiled political dissidents and Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe. “The story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp is one of the most incredible tales of compassion, sacrifice and heroism that I have ever heard, and I was completely unaware of it until five years ago when Artemis Joukowsky first shared it with me,” said Ken Burns. “Nearly three years before America as a nation became involved in the Second World War, these two unassuming, so-called ‘ordinary’ Americans gave up everything they knew and loved and risked their lives to become involved in a war 4,000 miles away because they knew there were people in grave danger who needed help.”
On Oct. 7, 2015 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum presented “Two Who Defied the Nazis” as the 7th annual, Linda and Tony Rubin Lecture. The program, a timely reminder of what refugees endure, was held at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. The Sharps' remarkable actions are documented in a collection of personal papers that have been donated to the Museum.
The Museum’s Western Regional Director, Steve Klappholz and the Defying's director and filmmaker (and Sharp grandson) Artemis Joukowsky appeared. Mr. Klappholz (in a prepared statement) wrote, “We are fortunate to have such a high-caliber film produced by Ken Burns to learn about the heroics of these two individuals and to better understand their challenges and struggles during what was the beginning of such a bleak time in Europe.” JewTube.Info spoke with him at the event.
|Artemis Joukowsky- grandson of Sharp heroes|
“Beyond the cloak-and-dagger suspense of my grandparents’ experience, it is a story of what America meant to refugees fleeing war-torn countries to build new lives. And it underscores what Waitstill would call ‘a collaborative effort’ of how a small but effective underground network of rescue workers saved as many lives as they could, and how important that lesson is for what is happening today,” said Mr. Joukowsky.