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15 January 1914
|Died||30 November 1943
She wrote a diary before her stay and letters during her stay in camp Westerbork
Esther "Etty" Hillesum (15 January 1914 – 30 November 1943) was the author of confessional letters and diaries which describe both her religious awakening and the persecutions of Jewish people in Amsterdam during the German occupation. In 1943 she was deported and killed in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Esther (Etty) Hillesum was born on 15 January 1914 in her family home in the town of Middelburg, Hilversum, the oldest of the three children – she had two brothers, Jacob or 'Jaap' (1916–1945) and Michael or 'Mischa' (1920–1944) – of Levi Hillesum (1880–1943) and Riva Bernstein (1881–1943). After completing school she went to Amsterdam to study law, where she met Hendrik (Hans) J. Wegerif with whom she had a relationship that she describes in her diaries.
Etty Hillesum began writing her diary in March 1941 possibly at the suggestion of her analyst Julius Spier, whom she had been attending for a month. Although his patient, Etty also became his secretary and friend and eventually his lover. His influence on her spiritual development is apparent in her diaries; as well as teaching her how to deal with her depressive and egocentric episodes he introduced her to the Bible and St. Augustine and helped her develop a deeper understanding of the work of Rilke and Dostoevsky.
Her diaries record the increasing anti-Jewish measures imposed by the occupying German army, and the growing uncertainty about the fate of fellow Jews who had been deported by them. As well as forming a record of oppression her diaries describe her spiritual development and deepening faith in God.
When round-ups of Jews intensified in July 1942 she took on administrative duties for the Jewish Council, voluntarily transferring to a department of "Social Welfare for People in Transit" at Westerbork transit camp. She worked there for a month but returned in June 1943, by which time she had refused offers to go into hiding in the belief that her duty was to support others scheduled to be transported from Westerbork to the concentration camps in Poland and Germany. On 5 July 1943 her personnel status was suddenly revoked and she became a camp internee along with her father, mother and brother Mischa.
On 7 September 1943, the family were deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz. Only Jaap Hillesum did not go with them; he arrived in Westerbork after their removal and in February 1944 was sent to Bergen-Belsen, dying shortly after its liberation in April 1945.
Etty Hillesum's parents are recorded as having died on 10 September 1943, suggesting they died in transit or were gassed immediately upon their arrival. Mischa Hillesum remained in Auschwitz until October 1943 when he was moved to the Warsaw Ghetto, where according to Red Cross he died before 31 March 1944. Etty died in Auschwitz on 30 November 1943.
Before she left for Westerbork, Etty Hillesum gave her diaries to Maria Tuinzing with the instruction they be passed to Klaas Smelik for publication should she not survive. Attempts to have them published proved fruitless until 1979 when Smelik's son, the director of the Etty Hillesum Research Centre, approached publisher J. G. Gaarlandt. An abridged edition of her diaries appeared in 1981 under the title Het verstoorde leven [An Interrupted Life], followed by a collection of her letters from Westerbork. A complete edition of her letters and diaries was published in Dutch in 1986 and translated into English in 2002.
Research centre and museum
On 13 June 2006, the Etty Hillesum Research Centre (EHOC) was officially opened as part of Ghent University with a celebration at Sint-Pietersplein 5. It studies and promotes the research of Hillesum's World War II letters and diaries.
The Centre is directed by Prof. Dr. Klaas A.D. Smelik, who edited and published the Complete edition of the Letters and Diaries, and teaches Hebrew and Judaism at Ghent University. Staff member Dr. Meins G. S. Coetsier is the author of Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence: A Voegelinian Analysis.
A monument to Etty Hillesum is located in Deventer on the riverfront, and the local secondary schools are named after her. There is also a modest museum dedicated to her memory; the Etty Hillesum Centre, housed at Roggestraat 3, Deventer, the location of a former synagogue and Jewish school.
- Hélène Berr – a French diarist
- Hana Brady – Jewish girl and holocaust victim; subject of the children's book Hana's Suitcase
- Helga Deen – wrote a diary in Herzogenbusch concentration camp (Camp Vught)
- Anne Frank – a Jewish girl and holocaust victim; author of The Diary of a Young Girl
- Věra Kohnová – a Czech diarist
- David Koker – wrote a diary in Herzogenbusch concentration camp (Camp Vught)
- Rutka Laskier – a Polish diarist
- List of diarists
- List of posthumous publications of Holocaust victims
- Sam Pivnik
- Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet who influenced her thoughts and diary writings.
- Tanya Savicheva
- The original handwritten letters and diaries of Etty Hillesum. Amsterdam: Jewish Historical Museum, 1941–43.
- Twee brieven uit Westerbork van Etty. Introduction by David Koning. The Hague: Bert Bakker/Daamen N.V., 1962.
- Het Verstoorde leven: Dagboek van Etty Hillesum 1941–1943. Edited with an introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt. Haarlem: De Haan, 1981.
- Het Verstoorde leven is translated in at least fourteen languages: England: Etty – A Diary (1983) Germany: Das denkende Herz der Baracke (1983) Denmark: Et kraenket liv (1983) Norway: Det tenkende hjerte (1983) Sweden: Det förstörda livet (1983) Finland: Päiväkirja, 1941–1943 (1984) America: An Interrupted Life (1984) Brasil: Una Vida Interrompida (1984) Italy: Diario 1941–1943 (1985) Argentina: Una Vida Interrompida (1985) Israel: Chajjiem Kerotiem; Jomana sjel (1985) Japan (1985) and Hungary. France: Une Vie Bouleversée. Journal 1941–1943, translation par Philippe Noble. Editions du Sieul. Paris, 1985.
- Het denkende hart van de barak. Brieven van Etty Hillesum. Edited with an introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt. Haarlem: De Haan,1982.
- In duizend zoete armen: Nieuwe dagboekaantekeningen van Etty Hillesum. Edited with an introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt. Haarlem: De Haan, 1984.
- Etty: A Diary 1941–1943. Introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt, translation by Arnold J. Pomerans. London: Johathan Cape, 1983.
- An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941–1943. Introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt, translation by Arnold J. Pomerans. New York: Pantheon Books,1984.
- Letters from Westerbork. Introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt, translation by Arnold J. Pomerans. New York: Pantheon Books,1986.
- Letters from Westerbork. Introduction by Jan Geurt Gaarlandt, translation by Arnold J. Pomerans. London: Johathan Cape,1987.
- An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork. New York: Henry Holt,1996.
- An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum. Preface by Eva Hoffman, London: Persephone Books,1999.
- Etty: The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941–1943.Edited with an introduction by Klaas A. D. Smelik, translation by Arnold J. Pomerans. Ottawa, Ontario: Novalis Saint Paul University – William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002. (ISBN 0-8028-3959-2)
- Etty: De nagelaten geschriften van Etty Hillesum 1941–1943. Edited, introduced and annotated by Klaas A. D. Smelik. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Balans, 1986.(ISBN 90-5018-594-0)
- "Etty Hillesum. Un Itineraire Spirituel, Amsterdam 1941-Auscwitz 1943" Paul Lebau, Collections Spiritualites.
- Bériault, Yves o.p., Etty Hillesum témoin de Dieu dans l'abîme du mal, Montreal, Médiaspaul, 2010, 192p.
- Brandt, Ria van den & Smelik, Klaas A.D. Etty Hillesum in facetten. Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Damon, 2003.
- Brandt, Ria van den & Smelik, Etty Hillesum Studies: Etty Hillesum in context. Assen: Gorcum, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-8262-1797-4)
- Brenner, Rachel Feldhay. Writing as Resistance: Four Women Confronting the Holocaust: Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997.
- Coetsier, Meins G. S. Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence: A Voegelinian Analysis. Columbia Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-8262-1797-4)
- Coetsier, Meins G. S. 'God? ... Licht in het duister: Twee denkers in barre tijden: de Duitse filosoof Eric Voegelin en de Nederlands-Joodse schrijfster Etty Hillesum,' in Etty Hillesum Studies: Etty Hillesum in context, red. Ria van den Brandt en Klaas A.D. Smelik, Assen: Gorcum, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-8262-1797-4)
- Costa, Denise de. Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum: Inscribing spirituality and sexuality. Translation by Mischa F. C. Hoyinck and Robert E. Chesal. New Brunswick, New Jersey, and London: Rutgers University Press, 1998.
- Du Parc Locmaria, Marie-Hélène. Tant souffrir et tant aimer selon Etty Hillesum, Éditions Salvator, Paris, 2011, 256p.
- Frank, Evelyne. Avec Etty Hillesum : Dans la quête du bonheur, un chemin inattendu. Une lecture d'une vie bouleversée et des lettres de Westerbork, Genève: Labor et Fides, 2002. (ISBN 978-2830910476)
- Gaarland, J. Geurt, ed. Men zou een pleister op vele wonden willen zijn: Reacties op de dagboeken en brieven van Etty Hillesum. Amsterdam: Balans, 1989.
- Nocita, Maria Gabriella, Feeling life: Etty Hillesum becomes word, in Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum, Proceedings of the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University, November 2008, edited by Klaas A.D. Smelik, Ria van den Brandt, and Meins G.S. Coetsier, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2010.
- Oord, Gerrit van, ed. L’esperienza dell’Altro: Studi su Etty Hillesum. Rome: Sant’Oreste, 1990.
- Regenhardt, Jan Willem. Mischa's Spel en de ondergang van de familie Hillesum. Amsterdam: Balans, 2012. (ISBN 978-94-600-3371-1)
- Woodhouse, Patrick. Etty Hillesum: A life transformed. London, Continuum, 2009, 166 pp.