August 29, 2006
SECOND AND THIRD AMERICANS HONORED AS RIGHTEOUS AMONG NATIONS HONORED AT UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM
Rosemarie Feigl, Rescued by Martha and Waitstill Sharp, to Speak
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The first American woman and her husband, Martha and Waitstill Sharp, to have been named Righteous Among the Nations for their courageous efforts in saving hundreds from deportation and almost certain death during World War II will be honored at a special ceremony at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. On Thursday, September 14, the Sharps will join rescuer Varian Fry as the only Americans to be honored with a plaque on the Rescuers Wall in the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition.
“Rescuers represent the highest of human ideals,” says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “Few people found it within themselves to risk danger by helping their neighbors during the Holocaust. That the Sharps were willing to leave the safety of the United States to save strangers in Europe speaks to their character, and serves as an inspiration to us today, particularly as we continue to witness atrocities in Darfur and elsewhere.”
Holocaust survivor, Rosemarie Feigl, one of the hundreds of people they helped to escape Nazi tyranny, will deliver remarks. Also attending will be Martha Sharp Joukowsky, the Sharps’ daughter; Artemis Joukowsky III, the Sharps’ grandson; Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, Chair Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Board of Trustees; and John Heffernan, Director of the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Initiative.
In 1963, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, began a project to grant the title of Righteous Among the Nations to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. In a June 13, 2006, ceremony in Israel, the Sharps were posthumously recognized as Righteous. The Museum’s Rescuer’s Wall reproduces the names of all individuals who receive the recognition—more than 21,000 to date, three of whom are Americans.
Sharp Biographical Information
Waitstill Sharp, a minister in the Unitarian church, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and his wife Martha, a noted social worker, accepted an invitation by the Unitarian Service Committee to aid members of the Unitarian church in Czechoslovakia in 1939. Arriving in Prague in February 1939, the Sharps helped a number of Jews leave the country, which had come under Nazi control. The Sharps continued their charitable work until August 1939, when they left Prague following warnings of their possible arrest by the Gestapo. On June 20, 1940, they landed in Lisbon, Portugal, on a mission to help refugees from war-torn France. Making their way to Vichy controlled France, which had allied itself with Nazi Germany, they sought ways to help fugitives from Nazi terror.
While in France they helped Lion Feuchtwanger, a world famous German-Jewish author of historical fiction escape France. The Nazi regime had listed him number 6 on a list of persons whose German citizenship was annulled for their anti-Nazi stance. Learning of Feuchtwanger’s plight, Waitstill and Martha took it upon themselves to organize Feuchtwanger’s escape. At great risk, they organized forged identity cards, rented rooms, bribed French border guards, purchased first-class tickets, and Martha disguised as a native peasant woman, to accompany the Feuchtwanger by train to Cerbere, on the Franco-Spanish border, where Waitstill Sharp was waiting for them. Eventually, the Sharps arranged for the Feuchtwanger to board a ship heading for New York, and they sailed in September 1940.
Having accomplished this, Martha returned to France, and journeyed to Vichy to plead for permits for a group of children, among them 9 Jews, to leave the country, which after many efforts she received. On November 26, 1940 this group – which included Rosemarie Feigl – left France, armed with U.S. visas thanks to Martha’s efforts. In all the Sharps are credited with saving hundreds of Jews and other enemies of the Nazi state.
For more information on the Sharps visit www.uusc.org/thesharps.
Situated among our national monuments to freedom, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is both a memorial to the past and a living reminder of the moral obligations of individuals and societies. The Museum fulfills its mission through a public/private partnership in which federal support guarantees the institution’s permanence and hundreds of thousands of donors nationwide make possible its educational activities and global outreach. More than 23 million people – including more than 8 million schoolchildren – have visited the Museum since it opened in 1993, and through its Web site, traveling exhibitions and educational programs, the Museum reaches millions more every year. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.
Media: The ceremony begins at 9:00 a.m. Media should enter the Museum at the 15th St. entrance. TV crews should arrive early to be cleared by security. RSVPs are requested by contacting Andy Hollinger at 202-488-6133 or email@example.com.