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Defying the Nazis
Cover of Defying the Nazis
Defying the Nazis
The Sharps' War
The little-known story of the Sharps whose rescue and relief missions across Europe during World War II saved the lives of countless Jews, refugees, and political dissidents. Official companion to the Ken Burns PBS film.
For readers captivated by the story of Antonina Zabinski as told in The Zookeeper's Wife and other stories of rescue missions during WWII, Defying the Nazis is an essential read.
In 1939, the Reverend Waitstill Sharp, a young Unitarian minister, and his wife, Martha, a social worker, accepted a mission from the American Unitarian Association: they were to leave their home and young children in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and travel to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to help address the mounting refugee crisis. Seventeen ministers had been asked to undertake this mission and had declined; Rev. Sharp was the first to accept the call for volunteers in Europe.
Armed with only $40,000, Waitstill and Martha quickly learned the art of spy craft and undertook dangerous rescue and relief missions across war-torn Europe, saving refugees, political dissidents, and Jews on the eve of World War II. After narrowly avoiding the Gestapo themselves, the Sharps returned to Europe in 1940 as representatives of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee and continued their relief efforts in Vichy France.
A fascinating portrait of resistance as told through the story of one courageous couple, Defying the Nazis offers a rare glimpse at high-stakes international relief efforts during WWII and tells the remarkable true story of a couple whose faith and commitment to social justice inspired them to risk their lives to save countless others.
The little-known story of the Sharps whose rescue and relief missions across Europe during World War II saved the lives of countless Jews, refugees, and political dissidents. Official companion to the Ken Burns PBS film.
For readers captivated by the story of Antonina Zabinski as told in The Zookeeper's Wife and other stories of rescue missions during WWII, Defying the Nazis is an essential read.
In 1939, the Reverend Waitstill Sharp, a young Unitarian minister, and his wife, Martha, a social worker, accepted a mission from the American Unitarian Association: they were to leave their home and young children in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and travel to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to help address the mounting refugee crisis. Seventeen ministers had been asked to undertake this mission and had declined; Rev. Sharp was the first to accept the call for volunteers in Europe.
Armed with only $40,000, Waitstill and Martha quickly learned the art of spy craft and undertook dangerous rescue and relief missions across war-torn Europe, saving refugees, political dissidents, and Jews on the eve of World War II. After narrowly avoiding the Gestapo themselves, the Sharps returned to Europe in 1940 as representatives of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee and continued their relief efforts in Vichy France.
A fascinating portrait of resistance as told through the story of one courageous couple, Defying the Nazis offers a rare glimpse at high-stakes international relief efforts during WWII and tells the remarkable true story of a couple whose faith and commitment to social justice inspired them to risk their lives to save countless others.
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About the Author-
  • Artemis Joukowsky is an author, filmmaker, and socially conscious venture capitalist. He is the grandson of Waitstill and Martha Sharp and has spent decades researching his grandparents' heroic rescue missions in Europe. He is also codirector, with Ken Burns, of the companion PBS documentary film Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War.
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  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2016
    Companion volume to the upcoming Ken Burns' PBS documentary about an American couple who rescued people threatened by the Nazi whirlwind in Europe.Readers familiar with Burns' documentaries will recognize some of his techniques transferred here into text by writer Joukowsky (co-director of the film), who first approached Burns about this story featuring his grandparents, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a story Joukowsky had thoroughly researched and already begun to film. There are passages quoted from correspondence between the two, touching intimate moments, mentions of myriads of documents, photographs, and interviews (which readers must wait for PBS to see), and follow-ups on the principals and some supporting players. Waitstill was a Unitarian minister in Massachusetts when, in 1939, the American Unitarian Association recruited the couple to go to Prague to aid those under imminent Nazi threat. The Sharps succeeded in astonishing fashion, helping people slip out of the country, feeding the hungry, avoiding ubiquitous Nazi surveillance, and rescuing children from utter poverty. There were many near misses, and many moments of frustration, fear, and labyrinthine bureaucracy a la Dickens' Bleak House. There are also some surprises. They helped the son of Thomas Mann escape; Harvard's Jerome Bruner supported Martha during her subsequent run for Congress. The author generally adopts a neutral narrative tone, though he does blast Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long ("anti-Semitic, xenophobic"), and a couple of times he notes the irony of the Sharps spending so much time away from their own children to go abroad to help others' children. But the author's portraits are generally flattering, even when he chronicles the couple's divorce. True tension, though, is hard to create when we know from the outset that both survived the war. A clear, unpretentious volume that justly celebrates a couple who risked all for others.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Kirkus Reviews "A clear, unpretentious volume that justly celebrates a couple who risked all for others."
  • William F. Schulz, president of the UUA, 1985–1993; executive director of Amnesty International USA, 1994–2006; and president of the UUSC, 2010–2016 "This gripping tale of intrigue and courage, of love's power and its loss, is both entertaining and inspiring. Heroes are often thought to be super-human. But Defying the Nazis proves that true heroes emerge not from the pages of comic books but the halls of everyday life. The common denominator is a stubborn faith in humanity and a conviction that the shape of history is ultimately in each of our hands."
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