Etty Hillesum

Like Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum kept a diary poetically describing her life under Nazi rule, but her open discussion of her spiritual and sexual exploration prevented it from being published until 1981. The daughter of a school director, Hillesum moved to Amsterdam at eighteen, earned a law degree, and began studying Russian. Shortly before the war, she became a housekeeper in a mansion belonging to Han Wegerif, who hosted a loose-knit group of students and professionals, including Jungian therapist and palm reader Julius Spier. Hillesum took both men as her lovers. She began writing her diary in 1941, focusing on her relationship with Spier and his ideas, but over time, as restrictions on Jews increased, the war loomed larger in her writing. Hillesum tried working with the Judenrat for two weeks in 1942, then quit to join the first group of Jews sent to the Westerbork transit camp, a job that offered some travel privileges back to Amsterdam. After Spier died of illness in October of 1942, she returned to Westerbork until she was sent to Auschwitz with her family in 1943 and died soon after arrival.

Topics: Holocaust, Memoirs

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Etty Hillesum in 1939. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Etty Hillesum." (Viewed on January 29, 2020) <>.


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