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Etty Hillesum's Writing




I just finished the most life impactful book of my 74 years; being an avid reader that says a lot. As an aspiring writer, I shall give credit to Eva Hoffman, Jan G. Garlands and Jonathon Cape, Ltd. for their work over a period of time from 1983-1996 in compiling and interpreting the daily Journaling and Letters of Etty Hillesum, "An Interrupted Life and Letters From Westerbork."


I cannot comprehend the historical and collaborative research that had to have gone into the book.


Better yet, the providence that seemed to guide this young 27-29 year-old, so as to document this horrendous moment on our globe, occurring during the regime of Germany's most hideous leadership in the late 30's through WWII.


Early on, this brilliant young "secretary" shares her infatuation and likely intimacy with a man twice her age, who's scholarly pursuit of Jungian psychotherapy so mesmerizes young Hillesum, that she likely is seduced, though one is never quite sure that she fully participated as a part of a harem of ladies devoted to this man, himself betrothed to another, who survived the Holocaust and later moved to the U.S..


This youthful passion, likely unintended for public knowledge, sets her to journaling daily in between her duties on the Jewish Council, carry for her parents, tutoring Russian, while pouring over the classical literature available likely only in the best of libraries.


Her excitement with life unintentionally lays a literary foundation upon which the reader is subtily afforded a deeply felt disclosure of the work of God (in her own words) which crafts one of the most compassionate servant leaders of the last century, in my humble opinion.


The shaping of her character and leadership is remarkably captured as she admits hurriedly scribbling her thoughts in hopes of one day becoming a writer. Unlike her, so many today draft volumes about servant leadership, whether for inspiration, academic necessity or personal profit, yet with some exceptions, live a life of abundance and success, her's written on scraps of paper, in the squalor of a concentration camp, once all her smuggled notebooks were exhausted; the privilege of communication with growing limitation and censor, even the threat of "transport" to Auschwitz.


Her last post card was addressed and thrown from between the bare planks enclosing the cattle car into which she was herded along with hundreds others, "a single pot in the middle of the car for sanitary purposes."


It seems miraculous that even that post card, found later by a local farmer would survive, be mailed and eventually salvaged, as a part of the great compilation of writings.


I cannot comprehend her sufferings, mental clarity given her noisy surroundings, coupled with a compassion that has touched my soul at its deepest core. She will always serve as a model, sureky challenging us should this life of relative abundance and personal freedom, ever again seized by tyrants.


If so, may I by God's mercy respond in the way of this beautiful Jewish lady who perished in the horrors of Auschwitz in 1943.

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