An Interrupted Life

by Etty Hillesum

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others.

In this quote from her diary, Hillesum speaks to the internal transformation that necessitate an actual mass social change of conscience and ethics. In order to defeat something as horrific as Nazism, people not targeted by the Nazis, in particular, must look inward and address the ways they may be complicit or to some degree supportive of Nazism, even if they don't consciously and actively support it. For example, someone may hate the KKK and what it stands for, but fighting against the existence of the KKK relies on not only fighting the racist organization itself but also examining any unaddressed racism within one's self that may not be as blatant as an organized white supremacist group but which nevertheless allows such groups to exist with minimal consequences.

I know and share the many sorrows a human being can experience, but I do not cling to them; they pass through me, like life itself, as a broad eternal stream...and life continues...

In this particularly moving quote, Hillesum speaks to the resiliency and inner strength human beings are capable of. Hillesum wrote these words in a time in which she knew she would face certain death at the hands of the Nazis. She wrote these inspirational words with a quiet, humble strength that encourages people to work through their struggles and continue living their lives. Though she ultimately was murdered by the Nazis, Etty Hillesum did not let the Nazis kill her spirit, and this quote is certainly an example of her inner strength and thoughtfulness.

Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.

This quote, as well, speaks to Hillesum's resiliency and inner strength as she managed to continue to recognize the beauty of the world as she navigated one of the most horrific events in human history. Through this quote, one can see how the horrors people choose to inflict on others in this world are not reflective of the earth as a whole or the beings who inhabit it. These man-made horrors can not eradicate the beauty and meaning that is inherent in this world.

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