On October 5, 2016, UU Wellesley shared a key part of our legacy of social justice work with a public screening of Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, a documentary co-directed by Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky III. The film tells the story of a past minister and his wife, Waitstill and Martha Sharp, who in 1939 and 1940 undertook dangerous missions to rescue refugees and dissidents in Europe. The Sharps are considered co-founders of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), which continues to help marginalized people all over the world.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Artemis Joukowsky III, grandson of the Sharps; Tom Andrews, President and CEO of the UUSC; and Catherine Chvany, one of the children rescued by the Sharps. The discussion, moderated by Mick Hirsch, our Director of Religious Education, focused on the lessons to be learned from the Sharps as the world faces a new refugee crisis, compounded by religious bigotry and widespread indifference. In the words of Hon. Tom Andrews, “We hope this film can inspire a new generation to honor the Sharps’ legacy by working to advance the values for which they sacrificed. The Sharps answered the call of their faith, risking their lives to save others. Their selfless dedication to a more just world is an example for Unitarian Universalists and all who care about human rights.”
More information and resources about activities related to the book and film’s release can be found through the Defying the Nazis UU Action Project. Click HERE to view a trailer for Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, which debuted on September 20, 2016 on PBS.
Click HERE to read a recent Boston Globe article about Unitarians' tradition of activism, exemplified by the Sharps' rescue mission. Click HERE to read a New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof who challenges us to consider the Sharps' bravery in addressing the refugee crisis of their era, as we decide how we will address the current one. The Wellesley Free Library website includes a short video of Ken Burns discussing the Sharps' legacy; view it HERE. An article about the film screening at UU Wellesley can be found HERE.