An Interrupted Life

by Etty Hillesum

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.


The title of An Interrupted Life not only refers to the "interruption" of Hillesum's life as an individual but the collective victimization of the Jewish people in Europe during the reign of the Nazi Party. The genocide that occurred on the continent marked the ending of normal life for innocent Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, and the beginning of terror and bloodshed. The lives of people were suddenly interrupted by the politics of hatred and war. Etty's personal writings documented the extremes of xenophobia from both a macro and micro perspective. The book is an important witness account to one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.


Like fellow famous Jewish diarist Anne Frank, Etty details how she had managed to survive the Nazi regime's systematic oppression and eradication of Jewish people. The journal entries are inherently intimate, but she also manages to document the perspectives of others around her. The collection of writings vividly depict what it's like to try to survive in a terrifying and brutal environment. Etty was able to survive for a while by holding an administrative post at a transit center, but she was eventually removed and sent to a concentration camp with her parents and other family members. Although she was killed, her writings show her inner-strength and courage, which helped her survive most of the occupation.

Spiritual Awakening

The most persistent theme throughout the collection of entries is Etty's spiritual growth during the occupation. The more that German authorities increased the social, physical, and legal limitations placed upon Jewish people, the more Etty sought refuge in her faith. Etty's spiritual evolution throughout the occupation is what helped her feel compassion and empathy for others, and her faith also gave her the mental strength to endure immense hardships.

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