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Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War (2016)

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Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War: Waitstill Sharp, a Unitarian minister, and Martha Sharp, a trained social worker, in February 1939, boldly commit to a life-threatening mission in Europe to assist refugees.


David Blitstein (story consultant), Artemis Joukowsky | 1 more credit »
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Credited cast:
Marina Goldman Marina Goldman ... Martha Sharp (voice)
Tom Hanks ... Waitstill Sharp (voice)


When seventeen others turned down the Unitarian Association's request for relief volunteers, Waitstill and Martha Sharp committed to the dangerous mission. "Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War" is the story of their humanitarian work and the effect it had on their lives. The Sharp's left their two young children behind in Wellesley, Massachusetts and traveled to Czechoslovakia to aid refugees just as war was about to break out in Europe. While abroad, they combated political and social legislation, breaking laws in order to get imperiled individuals exit visas. From involvement with black market, money laundering, to the clandestine transportation of refugees, the Sharps played a vital role in the rescue of Jews and dissidents from persecution. The film features interviews with the refugees rescued as children, now adults, who were taken to America by Martha Sharp, and interviews with family members. These personal stories highlight the impact of social change and the effect of the ... Written by Emma Blaxter

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Release Date:

20 September 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Two Who Dared: The Sharps' War See more »

Filming Locations:

Czech Republic See more »

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Did You Know?


Martha Sharp: Every life we touched had its own drama. One can only manage a miracle every so often, but a series of miracles can happen when many people become concerned and are willing to act at the right time.
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User Reviews

One of Ken Burns' best
4 December 2017 | by donb-519-335075See all my reviews

This short documentary chronicles the lives and work of Waitstill and Martha Sharp – dedicated Unitarian ministry couple who worked at great peril to themselves in Prague and France to help Jews and others escape destruction at the hands of Hitler's Nazis.

This is a typical Ken Burns documentary with outstanding recollections of the many of those who were saved interspersed with letters etc. from the Sharps. The music, re- enactments, and narration make for a very dramatic and tense retelling of the exploits of this couple. And, as in all his films, the story being told is more than the story itself. It delves into how some people are willing to risk their lives and fortune for others; how families were willing to give up precious time with their families for others; and, of course, how Hitler's regime was the embodiment of evil on the earth. It also touches on the fears of immigration and blatant racism prevalent in 1940's America.

JOHN 15:13 was in my mind as I watched this file: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." The Sharps did this out of a love for humanity, a commitment to social justice and because someone had to do something about the situation.

This is a very dramatic and tense story which is portrayed in the most effective fashion by Burns. The rescue of Mr. X (unidentified to this day) from Prague in 1939 and the rescue of numerous French Jews across the French Alps into Spain are as suspenseful as any modern movie. And, of course, this was true.

The bravery and commitment of this couple put to shame the French capitulators who were hunting down their own countrymen to turn them over to their conquerors. It also put to shame their own America's leaders who knew about the atrocities of the holocaust, but decided to just focus on a military victory as the quickest way to send the suffering; therefore, doing nothing to impede the genocide of the Jewish population of Europe.

In addition, the scenes of the Czechs shipping their children off to escape the clutches of the Nazis was poignant and extremely touching. As I watched this, I was wishing that today's younger generation would see this and get a sense of how life can be and how important it is for Christian values and freedom to reign in our country.

This is not Ken Burns' best or most well-known film. But it is one which needs to be seen. If it only inspires a few people in America today to do "the right thing," it will have met its purpose.

You can find the film at the library or watch it on line at:


I hope you watch it. You will be moved by it.


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