Defying the Nazis VR: Experience a Dramatic 1940 Escape From Europe

2 minute read

Imagine, as a child, leaving behind everything you know—your family, your home, even your native language. Those were only some of the hardships facing the child refugees who fled Nazi France for freedom in the United States. In the virtual reality companion piece to the Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky documentary Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War (premiering Tuesday on PBS), you can step inside the ship with them as they travel from Portugal to the United States.

The saviors responsible for this daring rescue mission were Waitstill and Martha Sharp. The Unitarian minister and his wife left their own children behind with their Wellesley, Mass., parish for two years while they risked their lives saving hundreds of refugees across Europe.

This powerful fully computer-generated VR experience includes a letter from Martha read by actress Maria Bello, along with narration from real-life survivors. Through audio and archival photos from the documentary, you’ll see the passengers’ faces, hear their emotional stories and travel with them on a recreation of the Excambion, the actual ship that brought them to safety. Defying the Nazis VR also serves as a reminder of the hardships that thousands of refugee families currently face amid the current European migrant crisis. With this immersive story, the past is rendered palpably present.

To watch the full experience and explore more exclusive virtual reality content download the LIFE VR app for iOS and Android or visit

Defying the Nazis VR is produced by VR Playhouse in association with Artemis Joukowsky and Farm Pond Pictures and directed by Elijah Allan-Blitz. LIFE VR is the exclusive distributor.

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