Etty Hillesum

“All I wanted to say was this: the misery here is quite terrible and yet, late at night when the day has slunk away into the depths behind me, I often walk with a spring in my step along the barbed wire and then time and again it soars straight from my heart—I can’t help it, that’s just the way it is, like some elementary force—the feeling that life is glorious and magnificent and that one day we shall be building a whole new world.  Against every new outrage and very fresh horror we shall put up one more piece of love and goodness.”

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

Etty Hillesum (1914–1943) was a Dutch Jew who lived in Amsterdam and died in Auschwitz in 1943. She began a diary nine months after Hitler invaded the Netherlands and continued her narrative for two years. All the writings left behind by Etty were composed in the shadow of the Holocaust and war but with the face of compassion and love that was uniquely hers. Also preserved were the letters Etty wrote to family and friends from Westerbork, a detention camp in Holland where Jews were held before transport to the death camps of Poland. An Interrupted Life was first published in the U.S. in 1982. Etty died at Auschwitz on 30 November 1943 at the age of 29.

 

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