Overview (Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series)
On November 30, 1943, a twenty-nine-year-old Dutch Jewish woman named Etty Hillesum died in Auschwitz. Hillesum had known that she would not survive and had asked her friend Maria Tuinzing to save her diaries and give them to Klaas Smelik, a writer and a member of the Dutch Resistance. The diaries, which filled eight exercise books and came to more than four hundred pages, were rediscovered almost forty years later. J. G. Gaarlandt edited the diaries for publication and wrote an informative introduction to them.
Etty Hillesum was born in 1914 into a cultivated and assimilated Dutch Jewish family. Her father was a classical scholar and headmaster of a college-preparatory secondary school. One of her brothers, Mischa, was an accomplished pianist, and other brother, Jaap, was an outstanding scientist. A brilliant student herself, Hillesum took a degree in law and went on to study Slavic languages, philosophy, and psychology. The entire Hillesum family perished at the hands of the Nazis, a fact underscoring not only the overwhelming human tragedy of the Holocaust but also the inestimable loss of countless talented and decent individuals.
The diaries begin on March 9, 1941, in Amsterdam and end on December 11, 1942. The letters from Westerbork collection camp cover the period from July 3 to August 24, 1943. The last two years of Hillesum’s life as revealed in the diaries were a time of intense personal growth. She underwent a transformation from...
(The entire section is 1750 words.)
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