The FBI has released files revealing Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein was under government surveillance for her activism work. Epstein, who died in May at the age of 91, caught the FBI’s attention due to her support for Palestinian causes.
The files were released in response to a Freedom of Information request by writer Waqas Mirza.
Documents reveal the FBI was monitoring Epstein’s work with the International Solidarity Movement and the group’s trip to Israel in 2003.
Epstein was born in Germany and lost much of her family to the Holocaust. She was sent to England at the age of 14 as part of the Kindertransport program in 1939. After the war, she worked for the allies as a researcher in the Nuremberg Medical Trials in Germany, before moving to the US in 1948.
She became active in human rights causes, including racial discrimination, housing issues, immigration policy and anti-war movements. Her FBI file details some of her work for housing integration and against discrimination in the 1970s.
Epstein became interested in the Palestinian cause after the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982. She went on to found the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and ran the Jewish Voice for Peace in St Louis. She traveled to the West Bank many times and dedicated her efforts to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
She was detained and strip and cavity searched at Tel Aviv’s airport in 2004, which she later described as having left her feeling “very angry and traumatized.”
Even at the age of 87, Epstein continued to make headlines after she tried to penetrate the Gaza blockade on the Freedom Flotilla, Audacity of Hope.
Epstein was arrested in 2014, at the age of 90, for “failure to disperse” after protesting Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to use the national guard against Black Lives Matter protestors in Ferguson.