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A farewell to great human rights activist Hedy Epstein
"Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall, always," Mahatma Gandhi.

One of the darkest chapters that mankind witnessed was a period between 1933 and 1945. It was in this period that Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 40,000 camps where the vacations were mass murders, forced labor and general fear. 

These were the monitored domains for people thought to be enemies of the state, These facilities were called concentration camps. Years ago, this scribe had stayed at the town of Dachau, located about ten miles from Munich. It is a medieval hamlet that is also known as city of circles.

Like Connaught Place, you begin from a place and would come back the same spot 45 minutes later. This place has a dubious distinction of being the first of the Nazi concentration camps in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. It was meant to keep political prisoners. It was opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler and the prominent jail guests were Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals including foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded.

There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp and thousands that still remain undocumented. The camps were liberated by US forces on 29 April 1945.

It has been widely assumed that incarceration of any kind is destructive to the psychological and emotional well-being of those who are kept in detention. The permanent damages caused by physical tortures, prison crowding, long-term imprisonment, solitary confinement, death row dehumanize the subject.

However, there have been several examples of extraordinary endurance, fortitude and courage where the prisoner rewrite the history of nations, not to talk of their own lives.

One such strong human rights activist and well known survivor of Jewish holocaust was Hedy Epstein who died this week at the age of 91 at her St Louis home. She had fought for the civil rights of victims of US war and justice for Palestinians. She had boldly criticized the way Israel is persecuting the poor hapless Palestinians.

Following Israel's 1982 Lebanon invasion and Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres, she had begun actively supporting Palestinian rights. Even at the age 90, in August 2014, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "STAY HUMAN," she was arrested "for failing to disperse" during a St Louis, MO protest over the police murder of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. She was activist to the end.

She is known for her best remark: "We need to stand up today so that people won't have to do this when they are 90." At the time, she said she'd "been doing this since" her teenage days. She "didn't think she would have to do it at age of 90."

In 2001, she had founded the St Louis Chapter of Women in Black, an anti-war group formed by Israeli women in 1988. It had followed the outbreak of the first intifada (the satyagrah of poor Palestinians) in response to horrific IDF (Defence Forces of Israel) human rights violations, expressing strong opposition to illegal occupation.

Her parents and most of her relatives were Nazi holocaust victims.

She was better known for her strong support to Palestinian cause as she used to address public meeting and offering volunteer work with the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace. She had also traveled several times to the West Bank. She was also a participant in Gaza Freedom Flotilla missions, trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the illegally besieged Strip.

In her life she had followed the simple philosophy – "If we don't try to make a difference, if we don't speak up, if we don't try to right the wrong that we see, we become complicit. I don't want to be guilty of not trying my best to make a difference."

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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