Kurt Epstein

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Kurt Epstein
Born (1904-01-29)January 29, 1904
Died February 1, 1975(1975-02-01) (aged 71)
Citizenship Czech/American
Occupation Olympic water polo player
Known for
  • Played water polo in two Olympics
  • Incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps
Home town Roudnice nad Labem
Height 6 ft, 1 in[1]
Religion Jewish
Children Helen Epstein Tom Epstein David Epstein

Kurt Epstein (January 29, 1904 – February 1, 1975) was a Czechoslovakian Olympic water polo player.[2][3][4][5]

Early life[edit]

Epstein was Jewish, and born to Maximilian and Helena Epstein. He grew in Roudnice nad Labem on the bank of the Elbe River, 22 miles north of Prague, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian province of Bohemia.[3][4][6] He lived in a house built by his father in 1900 on the site where in 1830 his grandfather built the first house owned by a Jew outside the Jewish quarter.[6] In high school, he became a competitive rower and swimmer.[3][6] He also became a swimming coach.[3][7]

In 1924, he joined the Czechoslovak Army, was picked for reserve officers school, and became a second lieutenant.[4][8][9] The Czechoslovak National Swim Club asked that he be furloughed to compete for them.[4]

Water polo career[edit]

Epstein represented Czechoslovakia in water polo in the 1928 Summer Olympics and the 1936 Summer Olympics.[2] His team finished tied for ninth in each Olympics.[2]

Incarceration in Nazi concentration camps[edit]

After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, he was incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps, at Theresienstadt concentration camp, Auschwitz concentration camp, and a labor camp at Frydlant.[3][4] All of the other members of his family were killed as a result of being gassed by the Nazis.[8]

Later life[edit]

He returned to Prague after World War II, and was elected a member of the Czechoslovak Olympic Committee.[3][4][6] After the Communists took over in 1948, he emigrated to the United States.[4]

He married Franci, a dress designer who had herself been interned at Theresienstadt concentration camp, then Auschwitz concentration camp, and finally Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from which the Americans had liberated her, and who was also the only survivor in her family.[10] They had a daughter, Helen Epstein, who became an associate professor of journalism at New York University, and two sons.[6][10][11][12]

In New York City, in 1948 the New York Athletic Club permitted Kurt to observe one of their water polo matches, but clarified that inasmuch as they did not accept Jews as members, he would not be hired as a coach.[10] After a decade of being unable to find steady employment, he ultimately became a cutter in a clothing factory of Star Children's Wear in the Garment District.[3][4][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joe Eskenazi (September–October 2006). "A Jew, a Czech, an Officer, and an Olympian" (PDF). Martyrdom & Resistance. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Kurt Epstein Biography and Olympic Results". Sports-reference.com. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "A Jewish Athlete: Swimming Against Stereotype in 20th Century Europe, by Helen Epstein". Plunkett Lake Press. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Helen Epstein (April 13, 2009). "My Father, The Jewish Athlete". The Jewish Writing Project. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Kurt Epstein". The New York Times. February 2, 1975. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Helen Epstein (November 4, 1990). "The House on Jan Hus Street". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  7. ^ Helen Epstein (1988). Children of the Holocaust; conversations with sons and daughters of survivors. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-011284-7. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Alan L. Berger, Naomi Berger (2001). Second generation voices; reflections by children of Holocaust survivors and perpetrators. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0681-8. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  9. ^ ".". The New York Times Magazine. 1990. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c Alan Levy (July 27, 1994). "Helen Epstein: Growing Up Czech in New York". The Prague Post. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b "Patrick Mehr, Consultant, Weds Prof. Helen Epstein". The New York Times. December 12, 1983. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  12. ^ Paul R. Mendes-Flohr, Jehuda Reinharz (1995). The Jew in the modern world: a documentary history. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507453-X. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]