An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943 Summary & Study Guide

Etty Hillesum
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An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943 Summary & Study Guide Description

An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943 Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943 by Etty Hillesum.

Esther ("Etty") Hillesum is a young Jewish woman who lives with her family in the Dutch town of Deventer. Born in January, 1914 just before the beginning of World War I, Etty was the only daughter of Rebecca Hillesum-Bernstein and Louis Hillesum. Etty has two brothers, Jaap and Mischa. Mischa is a talented pianist and Jaap eventually becomes a medical doctor. Etty Hillesum's father was headmaster of a grammar school in Deventer where Etty spend the majority of her childhood and early adult life.

Etty was raised in an assimilated Jewish home. In other words, the Hillesums were not observant Jews. There is no mention of attending religious services outside the home. Also, from Etty's writings, one learns that no religious rituals were practiced in the home. Etty makes only a few references to religious practices in her diaries. Sometime during her 20s, Hillesum moves to Amsterdam. She shares a house with Han Wegerif, a 62-year-old widower. His son Hans (an economics student) lives in the house as well. Bernard (the "social democrat") and Maria Tuinzing, a nurse and Etty's best friend are, like Etty, paying boarders. Etty teaches Russian and does translation work to make a living after she completes a law degree.

Etty Hillesum's diaries begin on a Sunday in March, 1941. She initially undertakes the task of keeping a diary as a means of living a healthier, more conscientious inner life. She hopes to become a writer one day. In the beginning, Etty writes very much like a woman of her time. Etty, the daughter of an intellectual, is first and foremost a thinker. She is an avid reader, ever involved in philosophical discussions with her contemporaries. As a young adult living in the years between the first and second World Wars, Etty Hillesum was decidedly modern and independent. She was open to intimate emotional and sexual relationships with others. Etty chronicles her daily experiences and adventures in conversational entries. Etty works through the pain and glory of life on the pages of her diary.

Interestingly, Etty Hillesum's transformation is spiritual and non-religious. Yes, Etty does come to believe in and trust God—the word Etty uses for that higher, best part of herself. Over the course of the next two years, Hillesum addresses questions of life and death, sacrifice and acceptance. The account of her inner progression is nothing short of miraculous. Hillesum lived her life in Amsterdam with her eyes, heart, and mind wide open. There is a fearlessness about Etty Hillesum, the progression of which the audience is allowed to witness. The story Etty Hillesum tells is simultaneously personal and universal.

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This section contains 440 words
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Buy the An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943 Study Guide
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