- Category : 1914-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Small (30,55,59)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Obscuration 2
Dutch author and autobiographer. A Jew, she was a victim of the holocaust, murdered in the concentration camp at Auschwitz on 30 November 1943.
Etty's father Levie (Louis) Hillesum (25 May 1880 10 PM, Amsterdam - 10 September 1943, Auschwitz) was a teacher classical languages at the Gymnasium. Her mother Rivka (Rebecca) Bernstein (23 June 1881, Potchev - 10 September 1943, Auschwitz) was a Jewish-Russian pianist, who fled in 1907 shaved bald 1700 kilometres West to Holland after progroms in Russia. They married on 7 December 1912 in Amsterdam. Etty had two younger brothers: Jacob (Jacques, Jaap) Hillesum (27 January 1916, Hilversum - 17 April 1945, Lübben) who studied medicine to become a physician and Michael (Mischa) Hillesum (22 September 1920, Winschoten - 31 March 1944, Auschwitz), a talented pianist.
Etty moved with her family from Middelburg (1914-16), to Tiel (1916-18), to Winschoten (1918-24), to Deventer (July 1924), following her father's career. Here she followed the gymnasium, where her father was deputy headmaster. She studied Law and later Slavic Languages in Amsterdam. On 6 June 1935 she took her bachelor's exams and on 4 July 1939 her Masters exam in Dutch law in Amsterdam.
After the Nazi's invaded the Netherlands, she met in the evening of 14 May 1940 the social-democrat professor Bonger, who was like her worried about the future and his life: "Dag professor Bonger, ik heb veel aan U gedacht de laatste tijd, ik loop een eindje met u mee. (....) Er was die middag net die vluchtrage naar Engeland en ik vroeg: vindt u het zin hebben om te vluchten? En toen zei hij: de jeugd moet hier blijven. En ikke: gelooft u dat de democratie zal winnen? En hij: die zal zeker winnen, maar het zal ten koste gaan van enige generaties."
This simple fragment comes from Etty's now famous diary (1981) and translates as: "Hello Professor Bonger, I thought a lot of you recently. Do you mind if I walk a little way with you (....) That afternoon there was just that flight race to England and I asked: Do you think it makes sense to flee or leave? And then he said: Youth is here to stay. And I asked: Do you believe that democracy will win? And he: Democracy will surely win, but it will be at the expense of some generations." Bonger and his wife committed suicide the next day.
On 3 February 1941 Etty met the Jewish ex banker and psycho-chirologist Julius Philipp Spier (25 April 1887, Frankfurt - 15 September 1942, Amsterdam) for she would serve as a model. The married Spier had immigrated in 1939 to Holland, leaving Nazi Germany. Etty was very impressed by his strong personality and decided to go in therapy with him. On 9 March 1941 she began her diary, which was part of her therapy. Eventually they fell in love and became lovers. Spier had a very great influence on Etty's spiritual development, teaching her how to deal with her depressive and egocentric bent and introduced her to the Bible and St. Augustine. When Spier died of lung cancer, she realised that this could be her fate soon.
On 15 Juli 1942 Etty got a job at the Jewish Council (February 1941- September 1943), an organisation erected by the German occupier. She hoped this would postpone her departure to the Eastern concentration camps. The papers she got, allowed her to travel freely between Amsterdam and camp Westerbork (Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Westerbork), from which Jews and other prisoners were sent to the concentration camps in the East. Her position also enabled her to smuggle her letters and diary out the camp till July 1943, when she formally lost this freedom. But on 6 June 1943, she already decided to stay in Westerbork , where her parents and brother Mischa were kept prison. Her diary ends 6 September 1943, a day before her transport to Auschwitz. Here she was gassed on 30 November 1943 at age 29.
Only in 1981 the family Smelik, who kept her diaries, could find a publisher (Jan Geurt Gaarlandt of De Haan), who was prepared to publish her work. "Het verstoorde leven - Dagboek van Etty Hillesum" (An Interrupted Life, 1999) became a besteller.
Esther "Etty" Hillesum described in letters and diaries her plain "sociological" descriptions of Jewish life in Amsterdam during the German occupation. She decided to stay and became generations after her 1943 death in Auschwitz in 1981 a honoured woman of whom Pope Benedict XVI on 13 February 2013 (Ash Wednesday) in his last days as pope would say:
"...I am also thinking of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch girl of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. At first far from God, she discovered him looking deep within her and she wrote: “There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then he must be dug out again” (Diaries, 97). In her disrupted, restless life she found God in the very midst of the great tragedy of the 20th century: the Shoah. This frail and dissatisfied young woman, transfigured by faith, became a woman full of love and inner peace who was able to declare: “I live in constant intimacy with God"...