Filmmaker to Tell Tale of Holocaust Heroism at UMass Amherst’s Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies
June 6, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. - Just days before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Unitarian minister Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha, a social worker, left their young children and home in Wellesley to begin what would become a dangerous and heroic mission.
That is the story behind "The Minister’s War: The Film-story of American Rescue during the Holocaust" presented by the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Thursday, June 14 beginning at 6 p.m. at the institute, which is located at 758 North Pleasant St. in Amherst.
The showing will be followed by a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Artemus Joukowsky.
At a time when most Americans were turning a blind eye to the gathering clouds in Europe, the "American Schindlers" rushed headlong into the storm, where they faced arrest, torture and perhaps worse from the Gestapo had they been captured while aiding Jews and anti-Nazi dissidents escape from Czechoslovakia and later France, says Joukowsky.
Joukowsky’s film explores what lay behind the Sharps’ willingness to put the well-being of their fellow human beings ahead of their own comfort and family, and examines their legacy in light of today’s challenges.
The Sharps were recruited by members of the American Unitarian Association in 1939 to accept a posting in Czechoslovakia as representatives of a new program to help endangered refugees. The couple administered relief to hundreds of endangered Jews and other refugees in Prague. In the following year, they traveled to southern Europe to continue a relief and rescue program for endangered refugees as representatives of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee. While visiting southern France, Waitstill worked closely with the World YMCA to help Czech servicemen escape from Vichy France.