Who is Etty?
Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jewish woman of 27 who wrote about her remarkable intellectual, social and spiritual transformation through diaries and letters before her death in Auschwitz on November 30, 1943. Etty’s diaries provide an account of the whirlwind of the last two years of her life—when she met and began to work with the German Jewish Jungian analyst Julius Spier, nine months after the Nazis occupied Holland. Her writings chronicle her journey from a troubled but gifted young woman—erotically volatile and emotionally chaotic—to a human being consciously facing the horrors of her time with clarity and respect for human life while it was being systematically erased.

In Amsterdam 1942, round-ups of Dutch Jews for eventually deportation to Camps began. Etty refused hiding and under pressure from her family, she applied for a menial job working for the Jewish Council, she decided to volunteer as a social worker to help the first round-up of Jews sent from Amsterdam to Westerbork Transit Camp, where Jews were sent while awaiting deportation to  camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor. Under the threat of weekly transport to death camps, she wrestled with the temptation to give in to the degradation surrounding her and dared to express the opinion that “Nazi barbarism awakens the very same barbarism in us.” While at Westerbork, she wrote letters in Amsterdam which were shared among her friends that deeply reflected on the human nature, god and the importance of compassion in a murderous age.

Etty and her family were eventually, on sudden special orders from The Hague, transported from Westerbork to Auschwitz.  She threw her final piece of writing on a postcard from the train on Sept.7th, 1943, which was found by farmers and mailed back to her friends in Amsterdam:

Christine, opening the Bible at random I find this “The Lord is my hightower.” I am sitting on my rucksack in the middle of full freight car. Father, mother and Mischa are a few cars away. We left the camp singing firmly and calmly. We shall be traveling for three days. Thank you for all your kindness and care.

Goodbye for now from the four of us.


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