"How a Massachusetts couple saved thousands from Nazi Death camps" PBS NewsHour 9/20/2016
SUMMARY: It started with a school project: Interview someone with moral courage. For Artemis Joukowsky, it became an enduring project to explore the life of his grandparents, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, who helped more than 2,000 people avoid deportation to Nazi death camps. Judy Woodruff speaks with Joukowsky and Ken Burns, who tell the story of the Sharps in a new documentary.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): A new Ken Burns documentary airs tonight on PBS, and for this story, he co-directs with another filmmaker for whom the details are very personal.
I talked with the men at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about the cloak and dagger story behind “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War.”
ACTOR: A telephone rang, and it was probably the most momentous telephone call that I ever received. I knew whose voice it was, the voice of my closest friend, Everett Baker.
He said, “Waitstill, Martha, I am inviting you to undertake the first intervention against evil by the denomination to be started immediately overseas.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: And with that call in 1939, the life of unitarian minister Waitstill Sharp and his wife, Martha, would never be the same, nor would the world.
The Sharps, who lived in Wellesley, Massachusetts, were sent by their church to lead a secret and perilous rescue of refugees and dissidents in Europe before and after the start of World War II. They directly helped over 100 people escape and had a part in helping over 2,000 people avoid deportation to Nazi death camps.
They expected to be gone for several months, and instead were gone two years.
MORDECAI PALDIEL, Holocaust Scholar: They were motivated from the beginning to go out there into the kingdom of hell and try to get some people out.
JUDY WOODRUFF: They left two young children at home.
Artemis Joukowsky is the grandson of the Sharps, and son of the Martha Sharp who was named after her courageous mother.
Artemis, this really has been almost a lifelong project for you, since you were, what, in high school?
ARTEMIS JOUKOWSKY, Co-Director, “Defying the Nazis”: Yes, I was in ninth grade, and I was given an assignment to interview someone of moral courage.
And I went home and I said to my mom, “Who should I interview?”
She said: “Talk to your grandmother. She did some cool things during World War II.”
And that interview changed my life.