2012-11-29 / On the Town

Community forum looks at World War IIfilm

Movie tells tale of minister who helped Jewish refugees avoid Nazi capture

“The Minister’s War,” a film that documents the efforts of an American Unitarian minister and his wife to help Jews escape from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and France, will be screened at a community forum at 7:30 p.m. Fri., Dec. 7 at the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 3327 Old Conejo Road, Newbury Park.

Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a young couple from Wellesley, Mass., rescued hundreds of refugees in 1939 and 1940.

In February 1939, the Sharps left behind their young children to travel to Prague at the behest of the Unitarian Service Committee. They arrived shortly before Hitler’s army invaded Czechoslovakia.

The film recounts how, over the next five months, they joined a secret network to feed and shelter Jews and others, and help them escape the country. The Sharps fled when they learned the Gestapo was about to arrest them.

In Nazi-occupied France, the couple used methods like bribing guards to secure passage for refugees.

The film features interviews with adults in the U.S. whose parents had sent them away to safety years ago.

The Sharps were honored posthumously in 2005 as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, the World Center for Holocaust Research.

The screening will be followed by a discussion led by the Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford, minister emeritus of the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and her husband, Tom.

Stapleford is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills in La Crescenta.

The Staplefords were in a delegation representing Unitarian Universalists at the induction ceremony in Jerusalem in 2005, and they contributed funds toward production of the film.

The screening and discussion are open to the public with a $10 donation requested. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

For more information, call (805) 374-9818 or visit http:// forum.cvuuf.org.

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