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1. Biography of Etty Hillesum

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the life of Etty Hillesum. Esther or Etty Hillesum was a young Dutch Jewish woman, who by any reckoning has become one of the most dazzling spiritual writers in recent Dutch literary tradition, and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the field of memoirs and diary writing. Nearly a year after the beginning of the German occupation of the Netherlands, in 1941, Hillesum began writing a diary. As volunteer and member of the Dutch Jewish Council she was, at first, able to move freely between Westerbork and Amsterdam. The literary, mystical, philosophical, historical, theological, psychological and therapeutic perspectives on Hillesum's life and work have generated sufficient material for scholars to grapple with. Etty Hillesum declined to call herself by her original Jewish name Esther, and she writes and describes herself as an assimilated Dutch woman.

Keywords: Amsterdam; Dutch Jewish woman; Esther; Etty Hillesum; German; Netherlands; recent Dutch literary tradition; Westerbork



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