WW II survivor Hedy Epstein to share her life story
Kirkwood Community College and area supporters will present a speaker on the Holocaust Tuesday, April 15. The 11 a.m. program will feature Hedy Epstein, a survivor of the Nazis in World War II. Her presentation, “Remembering is Not Enough” will be held in 234 Cedar Hall on the Kirkwood Cedar Rapids campus.
Ms. Wachenheimer Epstein was born in Frieberg, Germany in 1924. She was an only child and her parents were merchants with a family history going back many generations. She recalls her parents hoping at first that Hitler would not come to power, then after 1933 hoping the Nazis would not long hold their power.
Her memories include the slow but steady degradation of Jewish life in Germany. German Jews had their citizenship renounced, followed by the burning of synagogues and the detention of all Jewish males over 16 years of age in “protective custody.” Finally, all Jews were deported or rounded up into concentration camps in the late 1930s until the end of World War II.
In May 1939 Hedy went to England on a “children’s transport.” This was part of an overall effort to save young Jewish citizens that eventually brought nearly 10,000 children to the UK between December 1938 and September 1939. Her parents had tried for several years to leave Germany as an entire family but were unsuccessful.
With her removal to England in 1939, Hedy was in safe hands—but would never see her family again. Her parents and other family members were deported to a concentration camp in Vichy France and later to Auschwitz, where they died in 1942.
Following the war, Hedy completed her education and worked in a variety of jobs in England. During this time she also traveled back to Germany and worked on the staff of the U.S. Civil Censorship Division, providing support for the Nuremberg Medical Trial. The proceedings prosecuting Nazi doctors accused of performing medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners.
In 1948 Hedy emigrated to the United States. In the next decades, Hedy Epstein would lend her energies to such causes as fair housing, antiwar rallies and human rights campaigns. She has participated in several non-violent demonstrations protesting living conditions in the occupied West Bank areas, advocating better treatment of the Palestinians in occupied territories.
Ms. Epstein is equally fluent in German and English and has appeared in the media and in speaking engagements throughout the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. She is a member of the Speakers Bureau of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.
Hedy Epstein’s April 15 discussion at Kirkwood is sponsored by the Thaler Holocaust Committee, the Kirkwood Foundation, Kirkwood Student Life and the Department of Social Sciences and Career Option programs. The program is free and open to the public.