Hedy Epstein

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Hedy Epstein at the opening of the permanent exhibition Memorium Nuremberg Trials (2010)

Hedy Epstein (born Wachenheimer ; born August 15, 1924 in Freiburg im Breisgau ; † May 26, 2016 in St. Louis , Missouri ) was a German-American civil rights activist .


She grew up in Kippenheim . When she was eight years old, the National Socialists came to power. In 1938 she had to leave school because of her Jewish origins. Her father was taken to the Dachau concentration camp for four weeks during the November pogroms in 1938 . The parents tried desperately to leave Germany , but they failed because of the entry requirements in various countries because no one wanted to vouch for them. After the family had managed Hedy 1939 with a Kindertransport to England to send the remaining family members were in 1940 with the Wagner-Bürckel action in the concentration camp at Gurs internment camp after France deported and 1942 to Auschwitz . She got the last signs of life from her parents in the same year.

In England she was taken in with a host family, but could not find her way there. She moved into a girls' home. In the neighborhood she made contact with a group of the London FDJ , which she joined in the summer of 1943. She moved into a shared apartment with political friends and took part in political working groups. She justified her decision to work in a production facility that was important to the war effort by saying that she could finally do something against Nazi Germany .

In 1945 Hedy Epstein returned to Germany to work as a translator at the Nuremberg Medical Trial and to look for her parents. In 1948 she emigrated to the USA . In 1953, when the McCarthy era and the Cold War were already shaping the climate in the USA, she submitted an application for naturalization, which was only approved after years of questioning about her membership in the FDJ in 1960.

In the USA, she worked for a law firm, campaigned for victims of discrimination and for the rights of racially marginalized people. In the 1970s she legally supervised Vietnam War deserters . At the end of December 2009, she took part in the Gaza Freedom March with around 1400 activists from all over the world and went on a hunger strike in Egypt because the activists were refused entry into the Gaza Strip via Rafah ; it was her third attempt to get to Gaza. Starting in 2003, she made several trips to the West Bank to campaign for the rights of the Palestinians . In May 2010, she supported the Free Gaza Movement's international aid convoy , which Israel believed was illegal, which is why the convoy was seized by the military ( Ship-to-Gaza incident ) .

Hedy Epstein was politically and socially involved in the anti-racism and peace movement, among other things . She reported on her life at numerous events and remembered the persecution of the Jews by the National Socialists.

In August 2014, she participated in protests over the death of Michael Brown and was arrested by police.

She lived in St. Louis, USA, where she died in May 2016.


  • Patterns of discrimination . St. Louis, Mo.: Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence, 1970.
  • Remembering is not enough. Autobiography . Unrast Verlag, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-928300-86-5 .



  • Bernd Rottenecker: Hedy Epstein, b. Wachenheimer (1924-2016) - civil rights activist . In: Jürgen Stude / Bernd Rottenecker / Dieter Petri: Jüdisches Leben in der Ortenau, Bühl: seitenweise 2018, ISBN 978-3-943874-25-9 , pp. 174-175.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ISRAEL, GAZA: Holocaust survivor explains why she became Palestinian rights activist , Los Angeles Times . January 6, 2010. 
  2. Gaza marchers on hunger strike in Egypt , BBC News . December 28, 2010. 
  3. ^ Israel Signals New Flexibility on Gaza Shipments , The New York Times . June 3, 2010. 
  4. ^ Hedy Epstein, 90-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor, Arrested During Michael Brown Protest, The Huffington Post , August 18, 2014
  5. ^ Hedy Epstein, always on duty at TAZ September 3, 2014
  6. Protests in Ferguson: Police arrest 90-year-old Holocaust survivors Spiegel
  7. Holocaust survivor and activist for justice Hedy Epstein dies at 91 , accessed May 26, 2016
  8. Hedy Epstein in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  9. Film on vimeo.com