An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943 Short Essay - Answer Key

Etty Hillesum
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1. When did the author first begin writing this diary? Describe her at this time.

Esther ("Etty") Hillesum began writing a diary in early March of 1941. By that time, she was a twenty-seven-year-old single woman living in Amsterdam, making her way in the city. World War II had begun but for Hillesum and other Jews living in the Netherlands, things were about to take a turn for the worse. Before the war arrived on her doorstep, however, Etty Hillesum's main concern was her internal life both from an emotional standpoint and an intellectual one.

2. Why did Etty begin this diary?

Putting everything on paper satisfied two of Etty's most innermost desires. Primarily, Hillesum sought to purge herself of what she considered to be immaturity and complacency. It seems that Etty Hillesum was determined to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In addition, Etty Hillesum had devoted herself to honing her craft: writing. Like Rainer Maria Rilke, her favorite author, Etty wanted to be able to write in such a way that moved, startled, interested and inspired her (potential) readers. She admits certain weaknesses, mostly having to do with her appetites. Etty also discloses that her internal life is more important than her external life. The diary begins as a way for Etty to work through her feelings.

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