Documents Reveal FBI Monitored Holocaust Survivor Hedy Epstein's Activism

The FBI just released its files on the Holocaust survivor and intrepid human rights activist Hedy Epstein, revealing that the agency was monitoring her activism to support the human rights of Palestinians.


The files on Epstein, who died in May at the age of 91, were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the writer and researcher Waqas Mirza.

One heavily-redacted document, dated January 15, 2006, reveals that Epstein fell under surveillance due to her participation in a "delegation from St. Louis" that "traveled to Israel with [the International Solidarity movement] in the winter of 2003.”

The file, which is excerpted below, reveals that the FBI was spying on "web logs ostensibly written" by the ISM delegation, as well as monitoring media reports on their activities.

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Founded in 2001, ISM describes itself as a “Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the long-entrenched and systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian population, using non-violent, direct-action methods and principles.”

Following the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982, Epstein began speaking out against Israeli policies. She eventually became co-founder of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and the St. Louis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, where she was an avid defender of Palestinian human rights. Epstein made several solidarity trips to the occupied West Bank and, at the age of 86, attempted to break the blockade of Gaza as a passenger on the freedom flotilla, Audacity of Hope.

Epstein’s FBI file also details racial discrimination complaints she made to government bodies as part of her housing justice work with the Greater St. Louis organization, Freedom of Residence.

Epstein dedicated much of her life to human rights organizing after suffering profound loss and injustice at an early age. Born in Freiburg, Germany, she lost most of her family—including her parents and grandparents—to the Holocaust. She was saved when, at the age of 14, her family placed her on a Kindertransport ship to England.

After serving as a researcher for the Nuremberg Doctors Trial prosecution, she immigrated to the United States, eventually landing in St. Louis. In addition to her racial justice and Palestine solidarity organizing, she spoke out against the war in Vietnam and denounced unjust U.S. immigration policies. At the age of 90, she was arrested at the office of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to protest his decision to activate the national guard against Black Lives Matter protesters in Ferguson, following the police killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown.

When asked about her arrest by Newsweek in 2014, Epstein said: “The basis of who I am today was what my parents taught me and what I saw. They were examples to me of how one lives and how one does not persecute other people. I would like to think that they’re proud of me.”

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