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Thread: Hedy Epstein, Holocaust Survivor and American Political Activist Dies at 91.

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    Default Hedy Epstein, Holocaust Survivor and American Political Activist Dies at 91.

    Hedy Epstein

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Hedy Epstein
    Hedy Wachenheimer Epstein in 2010
    Born Hedy Wachenheimer
    August 15, 1924
    Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
    Died May 26, 2016 (aged 91)
    St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
    Cause of death Cancer
    Occupation Activist
    Religion Judaism
    Website Hedy Epstein's personal website
    Hedy Epstein (née Wachenheimer; August 15, 1924 – May 26, 2016)[1] was a German-born Jewish-American political activist known for her support of thePalestinian cause through the International Solidarity Movement.[2]
    Born in Freiburg to a Jewish family, she was rescued from Nazi Germany by theKindertransport in 1939. She immigrated to the United States in 1948, and lived inSt. Louis, Missouri, for many years.[3]



    Hedy Wachenheimer was born to a Jewish family in Freiburg, and in 1939 fledNazi persecution via the Kindertransport to England. All but two of her family were killed at Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. During World War IIshe worked in munitions factories and joined a group of left-wing German Jewish refugees who hoped to re-introduce democracy in their homeland – "the foundation of my political education which still stands me in good stead today," she says. Some 60 years later, she was interviewed about this experience for the film Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.[4][5]
    After the war, Epstein worked with the Allied occupying forces in Germany, including working on the Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg. In 1948 she immigrated to New York City, then moved to Minneapolis, and then to St. Louis, Missouri. There, she took up activism for affordable housing, the pro-choice movement, and the antiwar movement.[4][6][7]
    In 1982, news reports of massacres committed by a Lebanese Phalangist militia with the complicity of the IDF, during Israel's1982 invasion of Lebanon, "horrified" Epstein. Her reaction was to take a different perspective on the Arab–Israeli conflict; she began to express opposition to Israel's military policies.[citation needed]
    In 2001, she founded a St. Louis chapter of the Women in Black, an anti-war group that originally focused on Israel's occupation. In 2003 she traveled to the West Bank to work with the International Solidarity Movement. She returned once a year, claiming to CounterPunch that she had been strip searched and cavity searched in 2004 by guards at Ben Gurion International Airport.[4][7][8]
    2004 speaking tour and controversy[edit]

    Epstein spoke about the situation in the occupied territories, and about her own life and experiences, for audiences in the United States. Prior to a talk at Stanford University on October 20, 2004, fliers promoting her presentation "juxtaposed an image of Jews in Nazi Germany with an image of Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints", according to a news article in The Stanford Daily. After an "appalled" reaction from members of Stanford's Jewish community, event organizers stated that no "direct comparison" was intended by the posters, or would be heard in Epstein's remarks. Epstein echoed these sentiments, avoided comparisons between Nazis and Israelis, and spent little time discussing her background in Nazi Germany, wrote The Daily. However, throughout the speech, audience members, many associated with off-campus Jewish organizations, interrupted her talk with shouts of outrage, and extra campus security quietly moved in.[9]
    Reactions to the talk were sharply divided. Adina Danzig, president of Stanford's Hillel organization called the lecture "an abuse of history" and hoped that "this event and the isolated interruptions by a few individuals were an aberration". While acknowledging Epstein's general statement about avoiding comparison, Danzig stated that the "disclaimer did not undo the damage" and that "[Epstein] made several remarks drawing the [Israeli-Nazi] parallel".[10]
    Nathan Mintz, vice-president of the Stanford Israel Alliance, condemned "Epstein's rhetoric of drawing comparisons of the initial stages of the Holocaust to the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank" as "outright demonization of Jews" representing "only one piece of what is a much larger trend of anti-Semitism on college campuses today." He added that Epstein's ISM colleagues have "direct ties to terrorist organizations," and that "The atmosphere currently on campuses is not one in which a constructive dialogue about the conflict can legitimately take place."[11]
    In contrast, a supporter of Epstein condemned these as "misrepresentations and false charges", citing off-campus activists who, "with the intention of disrupting the event", handed out fliers "demonizing" Epstein and "frequently yelled at and interrupted" her. "At one point, he wrote a man suddenly jumped up while Epstein was talking and recited what appeared to be a prepared statement informing her of pending legal actions against her." He asked why Mintz "failed to mention any of the egregious events" of this sort and "submitted his op-ed before actually seeing the event."[12]
    In response to controversy over the paper's initial coverage of the story,[3] "an issue that has come to define more than one volume of the paper," The Stanford Daily's reader editor Jennifer Graham acknowledged that "plenty — if not unfairly too much" coverage was given to the claims of Epstein's critics. She also apologized for the "wrong" and "misleading" decision to run Mintz's op-ed criticizing Epstein's speech before it had happened. "There are claims, that I can neither confirm nor deny, that Mintz's column factually misrepresents the substance of Epstein's speech", she wrote.[13]
    As a "constructive response" to Epstein's presentation, members of several campus Jewish organizations invited Harvard professor Ruth Wisse to speak at Stanford. "While her audience ate Challah bread and drank champagne for the Kiddush", wrote The Stanford Daily, Wisse placed sole blame for Palestinian suffering on the Arab world and on Palestinian politics, and argued that since opposition to the Jews was the only thing that the Arab world had in common, the center of Arab politics became anti-Semitism.[14] Stanford student Ahmed Ashraf responded with an op-ed contrasting the "pro-Israelis (sic) outraged by Epstein's support for the Palestinians" to the "perfectly respectful" behavior of Arab and Muslim attendees to Wisse's talk, "even as the acidic torrent of hate rained down on them." [15]
    An Anti-Defamation League report from the next year characterized Epstein's talk as an "example of anti-Israel campus activism" which "would meet both the United States government's and [Israeli cabinet] Minister Nathan Sharansky's definitions of anti-Semitism," for "comparing Nazi treatment of Jews to Israeli treatment of Palestinians."[16]
    An online publication of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs cited Epstein's talk on the same subject at the University of California, Santa Cruz among "activities that spill over into various forms of hate-speech demonizing both Israelis and Jews" [which] "compared Israel to a Nazi state and Israeli soldiers to Nazis."[17]
    In 2008, the Missouri regional director for the Anti-Defamation League noted, "For someone like Hedy, who came out of the Jewish community at a very difficult time, to criticize Israel ... well, it's difficult. Some people perceive it as disloyal."[18]

    In August 2008, Epstein planned to be on board the Free Gaza Movement's ship attempting to break Israel's naval "blockade" of Gaza, but had to cancel due to poor health.[4][19]
    In 2010, she embarked on one of the ships that intended to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, but decided in Cyprus not to take part in the trip. She also planned to take part in the 2011 flotilla.[20]
    Epstein was supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement[citation needed] and was arrested for failure to disperse on August 18, 2014, during a St. Louis protest against the killing of Michael Brown and subsequent police actions.[21][22]

    Epstein died at her home in St. Louis on May 26, 2016, aged 91, from cancer.[23]
    See also[edit]


    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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    Holocaust survivor and peace activist Hedy Epstein has died at the age of 91. Epstein was born in Germany and left in 1939 on a Kindertransport to England. Her parents died in Auschwitz. She later returned to Germany to work as a research analyst for the prosecution during the Nuremberg trials. She was involved in civil rights and antiwar movements throughout her life. In 2011, she was part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and was a passenger on the U.S.-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope. In 2014, just days after her 90th birthday, she was arrested in St. Louis during a protest outside Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s office over the police killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. She spoke about her arrest on Democracy Now!
    Hedy Epstein: "I know what it feels like to be discriminated against, to be oppressed, and I can’t stand idly by when I see there are problems. I can’t solve every problem, I probably can’t solve any problem, but I have to do whatever it is possible for me to do. I just cannot stand idly by, because if I did—and anyone that stand idly by becomes complicit in what is going on."
    That was Hedy Epstein speaking on Democracy Now! in 2014. She died of cancer in her home in St. Louis on Thursday at the age of 91.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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    Default Hedy Epstein invites Elie Weisel to go to Gaza

    "We'll know our disinformation campaign is complete when everything the American public believes is false." --William J. Casey, D.C.I

    "We will lead every revolution against us." --Theodore Herzl

  4. #4


    Hedy Epstein

    Hedy Epstein (née Wachenheimer) was born August 15, 1924 in Freiburg, Germany. She lived with her parents Ella and Hugo Wachenheimer in Kippenheim, Germany. Her family had lived in Germany for many generations. Both sides of the family originally came from Spain.
    Hedy's father operated a dry-goods business with his brother. The business had been started by his grandfather Heinrich Wachenheimer in 1858. Hedy's mother was a housewife. Hedy was their only child.
    Hedy was 8 years old when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933. She remembers her parents and other adults talking about Hitler, saying that they hoped he would not gain power in Germany, and then, after he did, hoping that he would not remain in office very long.
    After that January day, things began to get slowly worse for Jews and other minorities in Germany. A boycott of Jewish businesses. Anti-semitism in schools. Revocation of German citizenship for all Jews. Kristallnacht, known today as Reichsprogromnacht in Germany. Burning of synagogues. Jewish males over the age of 16 placed into "Schutzhaft," or "protective custody," in concentration camps throughout Germany. Finally, all Jews deported into labor or concentration camps. The death of 6 million Jews and 5 million others in those camps.

    Hedy at age 14
    On May 18, 1939, Hedy went to England on a children's transport. Five hundred children were on this transport, part of the almost 10,000 children that England took in between December 1938 and September 1, 1939, the beginning of World War II. Hedy's parents had tried for many years to leave Germany as a family, but were unsuccessful, due to emigration restrictions in various countries around the world. Finally, after consulting with the 14-year-old Hedy, her parents found a way out for her on the children's transport.
    Hedy never saw her family again. Hedy's parents and other family members were deported on October 22, 1940 to Camp de Gurs, a concentration camp in what was then Vichy France. France at that time was occupied by the Nazis. Men and women were separated by barbed wire. Living conditions were horrendous. Hedy, however, did not learn of this until after the war.

    Hedy's family, soon
    after arriving in Gurs
    Due to an aberration of the war, inmates of the camp in Gurs could correspond with the outside world. Each person was allowed to write one page each week. Hedy's parents sent her letters for the next two years, but they were careful not to mention the atrocious living conditions they had to endure. They wanted to protect their daughter.
    In the spring of 1941, Hedy's father was sent to another camp in France, Camp les Milles. In July 1942 Hedy's mother was sent to Camp de Rivesaltes. Between August and September 1942, Hedy's parents and all other surviving family members were sent to the concentration camp Auschwitz. Inmates were not allowed to correspond with the outside world. None was ever heard from again.

    Last communication
    from Hedy's mother
    The last communication Hedy ever received from her mother was a postcard dated September 4, 1942. The postcard said, "Traveling to the east ... Sending you a final goodbye."
    Hedy spent the rest of World War II in England. She went to school and then went to work in a variety of jobs, including a factory producing war materials.
    Once the war was over, Hedy went back to Germany to work for the American government. First she was with the US Civil Censorship Division, and later she worked at the Nuremberg Medical Trial, which tried the doctors accused of performing medical experiments on concentration camp inmates. Part of her reason for returning to Germany was to find her family, but she was unsuccessful.
    Hedy came to the United States in May 1948. Her only living relatives were an uncle and an aunt who had emigrated to the US in early 1938. Once here, she worked in a variety of jobs. Although she did not realize it at the time, many of those jobs were part of her quest to find her parents and her family.

    Hedy protesting the
    deportation of Haitians
    Soon, Hedy became active professionally and personally in the causes of civil and human rights and social justice. Some of her causes have included fair housing, abortion rights, and antiwar activities. As a peace delegate, Hedy journeyed to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Cambodia in 1989. Hedy visited the Israeli Occupied West Bank five times since 2003, to witness the facts on the ground. She participated in several non-violent demonstrations, together with Israelis, Palestinians & other internationals, in opposition to Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, the 25-foot high cement wall, and the demolition of Palestinian homes and olive orchards.
    Hedy began speaking to audiences in 1970. Her topics include her Nazi Holocaust experiences, her work at the Nuremberg Medical Trial, and her five trips to Palestine since 2003. Equally conversant in English and German, she has spoken in the US, Germany, and Austria to audiences of schoolchildren, college students, and adults. In addition, she has appeared on several radio and television shows as a guest. She is a member of the Speakers Bureau of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

    Hedy today
    In addition to speaking locally, nationally, and internationally, Hedy has appeared on local, national, and international radio and TV programs as a guest.
    She has written many articles on social issues which have been published in local, national & international newspapers and journals. In addition, Hedy's autobiography was published in May 1999 by Unrast-Verlag, a German company. The book, titled Erinnern ist nicht genug: Autobiographie von Hedy Epstein ("Remembering Is Not Enough: The Autobiography of Hedy Epstein"), is available in German. The book, written by Hedy, covers her entire life and her experiences. It's ISBN is 3-928300-86-5. Hedy is also a contributor to several current & forthcoming books.
    Hedy has received many awards. Among the most recent ones are the 2005 Imagine Life "Education through Media Award" and the 2008 American Friends Service Committee's "Inspiration for Hope Award."
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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