An American Couple and Heroes of the Holocaust

Stand for Israel  |  December 27, 2022

Martha and Waitstill Sharp
(Photo: Yad Vashem)

As World War II heated up, Waitstill Sharp served as a minister in the United States, where his wife Martha worked as a social worker. But as the Nazis began their war on the Jewish people, this pastor and his wife left the relative safety of life in the U.S. behind—leaving their precious children in the care of trusted friends—and traveled directly to war-torn Europe, where they could help their Jewish brothers and sisters. Speaking out against the spread of Nazism early on, the Sharps first 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 pursued by the Nazis. One of the people they helped save was the German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger, whose anti-Nazi writings 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), Waitstill traveled ahead, bribing Nazis and guards along the way, while Martha traveled with the couple, disguised as a French peasant woman. In this way, the Sharps escorted the Jewish couple through fascist Spain and into Portugal, just one instance of their selflessness and bravery.

Returning to France, the Sharps continued to help Jews—including many children, who Martha provided with false Gentile identities—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.

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