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Eva Heimer, psychotherapist who fled Nazi Germany, dies at 90

Eva Heimer, who fled Nazi Germany at 16

Eva Heimer, who fled Nazi Germany at 16 and became a successful Port Washington psychotherapist, died last month. Credit: Heimer family

Eva Heimer, who fled Nazi Germany at 16 and became a successful Port Washington psychotherapist, died last month. Heimer, 90, had dementia and lived the last two months of her life at a nursing home in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

"My mother really felt that because she survived the Holocaust and got out, she really felt her life was sort of a gift," said one of her daughters, Jessica Wagener, of Burlington, Vermont. "She really felt blessed in life."

The former Eva Schoenberger was born in 1924 in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father was an art historian and her mother had a doctorate in art history.

Heimer recalled the Nazis forced her to wear a yellow star and took the family's home. In school, she was taunted with cruel jeers.

Her father was taken to a concentration camp, but later released, in part because he was a World War I veteran who had fought for Germany. He obtained a job as a curator at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan -- allowing the family to get visas and flee in March 1939, Wagener said.

They moved to Kew Gardens, Queens, and Heimer graduated from Richmond Hill High School. She received a bachelor's degree from Hunter College and a master's degree in psychology from The New School for Social Research, where she met Walter Heimer, a fellow student whom she married in Freeport in 1957.

She taught at the Bank Street School in Greenwich Village before working as a psychologist at a Manhasset clinic, focusing on children.

The couple lived on Grove Street in Greenwich Village and in Madison, New Jersey -- where their daughters were born -- and later settled in Port Washington in 1962. Heimer had private practices in adult psychology in Manhasset and on 92nd Street in Manhattan.

An avid swimmer, she loved Long Island's beaches -- her favorite was Bar Beach in North Hempstead -- and was also a theater and art buff. Deeply committed to her work, she was also a very involved mother.

"The house was sort of the haven for all the local teenagers," Wagener said. "She created this place where all the kids felt welcomed. She was accepting. She was kind of nonjudgmental."

Heimer and her husband, a psychology professor at LIU Post who died last year, were members for several decades of the Psychoanalytic Practitioners of Long Island. She worked until about five years ago.

In an email, the Great Neck group said Heimer "held many offices, gave a number of excellent presentations, hosted numerous meetings, and served as a truly memorable hostess at many of our end-year parties . . . Her passing, and Walter's passing a year ago, truly mark the end of an era."

Heimer had a full-circle moment in the 1990s, her daughter said. A guest lecturer at a dance therapy workshop in Switzerland, she trekked with her husband to Frankfurt. She walked by her old home -- the one stolen by Nazis decades before -- and knocked on the door.

"The gentleman who owned the house was actually interested in Holocaust history and he invited them in. They had a connection," Wagener said. "I think it was very much sort of a closure thing. She was very excited about it. It was very nice because the man was so nice."

In addition to Wagener, Heimer is survived by her sister Lisa Cohen, of Evanston, Illinois; another daughter, Annette Wilensky, of Lowell, Massachusetts; and four grandchildren. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, at Temple Beth Israel in Port Washington.

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