A Jewish Athlete: Swimming Against Stereotype in 20th Century Europe

· Plunkett Lake Press

About this ebook

This daughter's profile of Czechoslovak swimmer and water polo player Kurt Epstein (1904-1975) traces the history of Jewish athletes in Central Europe and provides a case study of one such life-long athlete.

Epstein grew up a stone's throw from the Elbe River and began swimming before the First World War, when his town of Roudnice nad Labem was still part of Austria-Hungary. In high school, he became a competitive rower and swimmer, challenging prevailing stereotypes about Jews and becoming a leading Czechoslovak water polo player and swimming coach, representing his country at two Olympic Games, in 1928 and 1936.

In addition to describing the cultural background of the Epstein family in the Bohemian countryside, the book examines Kurt Epstein's decision to participate in the 1936 Berlin "Nazi" Olympics, and follows him through a series of Nazi concentration camps back to Prague, where he was elected member of the Czechoslovak National Olympic Committee.

After the Communist putsch of 1948, Epstein vowed to flee "in a swimsuit if necessary" and, at 44, emigrated to New York City where he became a cutter in the garment district, swam weekly at the St. George pool in Brooklyn, and served as Treasurer of The Association of Czechoslovak Sportsmen in Exile in the Western World.

About the author

Born in Prague in 1947, Helen Epstein grew up in New York City, where she graduated from Hunter College High School in 1965. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and became a journalist after the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia of 1968 when her personal account was published in the Jerusalem Post. She became a university correspondent for that newspaper while still an undergraduate. Subsequently, she studied at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and began freelancing for diverse publications including the New York Times.

Her profiles of legendary musicians such as Vladimir Horowitz, Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma are collected in Music Talks that, like Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From, has been translated into several other languages. She herself is the translator of Heda Kovály's Under A Cruel Star and Vlasta Schönová's Acting in Terezín. Her biographies of Joseph Papp and Tina Packer grew out of her journalistic work. She has an active speaking career and has lectured at a wide variety of venues in Europe, and North and South America. She blogs for The Arts Fuse, a New England cultural web site.

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