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Advocates and Allies: Waitstill and Martha Sharp

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Lives: Waitstill (1902 – 1984); Martha (1905–1999)

Why you should know them: Waitstill and Martha Sharp were Americans who traveled to Europe during World War II in order to save Jews from the Nazis.

Waitstill Sharp was a minister in the Unitarian Church, while his wife Martha was a social worker. Speaking out against the spread of Nazism early on, the Sharps went to Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1939 and began to help the Jewish population there. From February until August, the couple helped countless Jews escape the country before the Nazis could apprehend them. Warned that they were to be arrested by the Gestapo, the Sharps fled in August of 1939.

But the Sharps did not flee to safety. Instead, they ended up in Vichy-controlled France, where they continued to help Jews and non-Jews who were being pursued by the Nazis. One of the people they helped save was the German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger, whose anti-Nazi writings had landed him sixth on the Nazis' list of Germans whose citizenship had been annulled. Procuring Feuchtwanger and his wife fake identity cards (under the name Wetcheek, the English translation of their last names), the Sharps escorted the couple through fascist Spain and into Portugal.

Returning to France, the Sharps continued to help Jews – including children – to escape certain death. After the war, they continued their efforts for the Jewish people. Martha supported Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization, and helped Jewish children make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) from places such as Morocco and Iraq.

Because of their selfless actions that helped save countless Jewish lives during the Holocaust, Waitstill and Martha Sharp were the second and third Americans named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial.

Tags: Stories , Inspiration , Partnerships and People , Advocacy , IFCJ

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