Waitstill Sharp

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Waitstill Hastings Sharp
Waitstill Hastings Sharp

1 May 1902
Died25 February 1983
Alma materBoston University (B.A., 1924)[3]Harvard Law School (J.D, 1926)[1][4]
Harvard University (M.A., 1931)[1]
OccupationUnitarian minister
Known forhumanitarian rescue work before and during World War II
Spouse(s)Martha Sharp (1927-1954)
Monica Allard Clark (m. 1955) [5]
ChildrenWaitstill Hastings Sharp (1931-2012)
Martha Content Sharp Joukowsky (1936)[6]

Waitstill Hastings Sharp (1 May 1902– 25 February 1983) was a Unitarian minister who was involved in humanitarian and relief work in Czechoslovakia and Southern Europe during World War II.[7] In 2005, Sharp and his wife Martha were named by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations, the second and third Americans to receive this honor.

Early life and education[edit]

Sharp was born in Boston on May 1, 1902, son of Grace Hastings and naturalist, author, and professor Dallas Lore Sharp. Through his mother, he is a descendant of Thomas Hastings, who came from the East Anglia region of England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.[citation needed]

Sharp graduated from Boston University with an undergraduate degree in Economics and English in 1924,[3][1] from Harvard Law School with a J.D.[verification needed] in 1926, and with an M.A. from Harvard University in 1931.[4]

On June 13, 1928 he married Martha Ingham Dickie in Rye, New Hampshire,[8] the daughter of James Ingham and Alice Whalen, both immigrants from England who settled in Rhode Island. The ceremony was presided over by his father. A social worker involved with local internationalist and peace groups, Dickie remained his ministry partner throughout his outreach and rescue work in Europe during the Second World War.[citation needed]


In his third year of law school, Sharp got to know Eugene Shippen, National Director of Religious Education for the American Unitarian Association (AUA), and minister of Second Church in Boston, and later became part-time director of religious education at Second Church.

In 1933 he was ordained a Unitarian minister, and he became the pastor at a small church in Meadville, Pennsylvania.[9] In April 1936, he was appointed pastor at the Unitarian Church of Wellesley Hills in Wellesley, Massachusetts.[4]

World War II rescue work[edit]

The Sharps were recruited by Reverend Everett Baker of the AUA to accept a posting in Czechoslovakia, as representatives of a new program to help endangered refugees, initiated by Robert Dexter.[citation needed] Beginning in 1939, Sharp and his wife administered relief to hundreds of endangered Jews and other refugees in Prague.[citation needed]

In the following year, Waitstill and Martha traveled to southern Europe to continue a relief and rescue program for endangered refugees as representatives of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee.[citation needed] While visiting southern France, Waitstill worked closely with the World YMCA to help Czech servicemen escape from Vichy France.[citation needed] He also forged a collaboration with Varian Fry to look after Fry's refugee clients in Lisbon.[citation needed] In this capacity, Martha and Waitstill personally escorted the novelist Lion Feuchtwanger from Marseille, France, on his journey to America.[10]


On 9 September 2005, Martha and Waitstill Sharp were named by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations, the second and third Americans to receive this honor (the first being Varian Fry).[11]

Personal life[edit]

They had two children, Waitstill Hastings Jr. born in November 1931 and Martha Content, born in September 1936. The couple separated after World War II, and were divorced in 1954. Waitstill remarried on June 24, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois to Monica Clark.[12] He died in Greenfield, Massachusetts on February 25, 1983.[13]


An educational curriculum including the Sharps is featured at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.[14]

The World War II work of the Sharps, including information about the context of their work among other relief workers, is detailed in a book by Susan Elisabeth Subak, Rescue and Flight, published in 2010.

A documentary film, Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War, recounting the experiences of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, was co-directed by Ken Burns and the couple's grandson, Artemis Joukowsky III, of Sherborn, Massachusetts.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b c d "Martha and Waitstill Sharp: A Timeline of their Lives", Two Who Dared, film website
  2. ^ Source Citation Number: 337-26-0571; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951
  3. ^ a b Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Di Figlia, Ghanda. "Martha Sharp Cogan (1905-1999) and Waitstill Sharp (1902-1983): Unitarian Service Committee Pioneers". Harvard Square Library. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Martha and Waitstill Sharp Collection, ca. 1905-2005", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  6. ^ Ancestry.com. U.S. Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
  7. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/the-risked-their-lives-to-rescue-hundreds-from-the-nazis-but-no-one-knew-their-story--until-now/2016/09/19/1d9a0d84-79b9-11e6-beac-57a4a412e93a_story.html
  8. ^ Ancestry,com. New Hampshire, Marriage and Divorce Records, 1659-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
  9. ^ "Sharp, Waitstill and Martha Sharp Cogan (1902-1984; 1905-1999)". Harvard Square Library. 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2017-06-01.
  10. ^ Subak, Susan Elisabeth (2010). Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers who Defied the Nazis. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803230176. Retrieved 21 September 2016.[page needed]
  11. ^ Yad Vashem Staff (June 13, 2006). "Waitstill and Martha Sharp". Yad Vashem [The Righteous Among The Nations, yadvashem.org ]. Jerusalem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  12. ^ Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
  13. ^ Number: 337-26-0571; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: Before 1951
  14. ^ "Martha and Waitstill Sharp". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  15. ^ http://www.defyingthenazis.org/education.html
  16. ^ "Review: 'Defying the Nazis': An American Couple on a Rescue Mission". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2018-12-11.

Further reading[edit]