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Faces of Resistance: Women in the Holocaust

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Esther (Etty) Hillesum (1914 – 1943)

Etty Hillesum was a diarist and mystic from the Netherlands. She began to write a diary in March 1941, possibly at the suggestion of her psychotherapist Julius Spier, whose practice she had been attending for a month. Though she was his patient, Hillesum became his secretary, friend, and lover. Her diaries record the increasing anti-Jewish measures in Holland and the growing uncertainty regarding the fate of deported Jews, as well as her spiritual awakening. In July 1942, Hillesum volunteered to work at the Westerbork Transit Camp, aiding in social welfare for those in transit. She had refused offers to go into hiding, due to her commitment to supporting those who were transported from Westerbork to Poland and Germany. In July 1943, her family and herself were suddenly forced into transit, and two months later, they were deported to Auschwitz. Hillesum died in Auschwitz on the 30th of November, 1943.


In an Excerpt from Etty's letters from Westerbork transit camp, on December 1942, she wrote:

All of Europe would be full of bitter experiences of the same kind. The story we tell each other about the truth in its nakedness, the separated families, the lost property and liberties, would be a monotonous tale. It is impossible to tell colorful stories to those who were outside. I wonder if many will be left out if history goes on for a long time on the path she started to walk [...]If we save from the camps, wherever they are, only our bodies, we have saved too little because the problem is not whether the person saves his life at any cost, but how he will save them [...]Indeed, things are not at all simple, and perhaps for us, the Jews, they are still less simple than others. And yet, if we can not offer the impoverished world after the war anything but our own surviving bodies - at any price - and not a new meaning stemming from the depth of our distress and despair, it is too little [...], A new understanding must shed new light at our barbed wire and merge with the new ideas that must be acquired by those who are left out.



Frieda Belinfante, left, and Henriëtte Hilda Bosmans

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