Etty Hillesum


Etty Hillesum during the late 1930s

Esther ‘Etty’ Hillesum, whose father was a headmaster, was born in 1914 in Holland, growing up in Deventer with two gifted brothers. After reading law, Russian and psychology at the University of Amsterdam, she moved in to 6 Gabriel Metsustraat as unofficial housekeeper to a widower, who became her lover. Here, in 1941, she began her diary, later published as An Interrupted Life. Julius Spier, the founder of psychochirology (the study of palms), also became her lover, and mentor, at this time. She went on studying Russian and giving lessons and, in July 1942, the month Anne Frank began her diary, started typing for the Jewish Council, before opting to go to Westerbork, the camp where Dutch Jews went before going ‘east’. For some weeks she was able to travel to and from Amsterdam, but was sent to Auschwitz in September 1943 and died there in November.

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