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An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork
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An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943; and Letters from Westerbork

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,648 Ratings  ·  199 Reviews
For the first time, Etty Hillesum's diary and letters appear together to give us the fullest possible portrait of this extraordinary woman. In the darkest years of Nazi occupation and genocide, Etty Hillesum remained a celebrant of life whose lucid intelligence, sympathy, and almost impossible gallantry were themselves a form of inner resistance. The adult counterpart to A ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published November 15th 1996 by Owl Books (first published 1981)
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Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The writing is wonderfully alive. It is like having a conversation.

That Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman suffering the terrors of Nazi occupied Holland and finally the death camp, that she was engaged in the most peculiar relationship with therapist Julius Spier, that her age, circumstance, background and education are so different from my own, I feel makes no impact on the sense of my conversing with a contemporary. Her psychological insights, particularly her guards against vanity, self
Oct 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The record of a beautiful, questioning soul who sees life as whole and meaningful, even when it's most visibly divided and meaningless. She kept the diary in the two years before she was sent to Westerbork camp and then sent letters from the camp in the year before she was sent to Auschwitz and died there. She is humble and proud and fearless and scared and yearning, entirely human and brimming over.

“But I still suffer from the same old complaint. For the one word that sums up everything within
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is a diary of Etty Hillesum, 27. Sometimes she's talking to herself, sometimes to God, sometimes self-analyzing, sometimes just recording events. She teaches Russian, has a lover, has had lovers before, and yet more than half, I think, of this diary is devoted to the object of her love/infatuation/sexual desire--a man about half her age older, who reads palms, who wrestles with his students as part of their lesson in his psychology class, and who removes his false teeth before he prays. The ...more
Mar 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: list-1992, list-2002
If I could only take 10 books with me to a deserted island, this would be one. Sort of "Anne Frank" for adults, it is the journals of a young Dutch Jew caught up in the Holocaust. She is brilliant and outgoing and living life to the full, when Hitler's ugly shadow begins to fall over her world. The struggles and dramas that ensue highlight the development of her soul into a loving and courageous being,who was able to write, even as the net drew tighter around her: "I know that those who hate hav ...more
Lord Beardsley
Jul 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Introspective disappointed optimists
Shelves: read2007, favorites
I'm glad I finally got to read her diaries after reading her letters. I have to say, start with the diaries. I actually read "An Interrupted Life" but goodreads wouldn't let me add it twice for some damned reason.

Reading her diaries is like having a conversation with a close friend. She was an amazing, interesting person. The same things she talks about twentysomethings are still grappling with. She had such a tender, sweet soul. All the time I was reading this, it just kept hitting me that she
Ogni due o tre mesi cerco di leggere un libro sulla Shoah, o argomenti simili, per non dimenticare. Questo libro mi è stato presentato come il corrispettivo de Il diario di Anna Frank: non un romanzo, ma una testimonianza. Trovo il paragone decisamente fuori luogo.

Prima di tutto, il libro avrebbe potuto essere scritto da chiunque stesse vivendo in qualsiasi momento storico e non da una giovane ebrea che viveva ad Amsterdam nei primi anni ‘40. Nella maggior parte del libro, sporadici sono i rifer
Maria Carmo
It is not the first time that I read Etty Hillesum, but she always amazes and touches me in the deepest possible way. There is so much greatness in her aspiring Soul, her way is carven in suffering but also joy, as she transforms herself through the two last years of her life, during Holocaust. She learns to love and open herself to God. She can bless life even though there were so many struggles to be fought and so much incredible want and suffering. But Etty can bless life and feel at home for ...more
Maria Carmo
Etty Hillesum was "discovered" dozens of years after her death, when her diaries were recovered and published.

I would advise everyone to read this book, which includes both her diaries and a number of letters exchanged by her and her friends.
This is an INCREDIBLE HUMAN BEING, someone who's Soul opened up in the midst of the terrible persecutions during the second world war.
A mystic of a kind, Etty made her incredible spiritual development during two plus years, from the age of 27 till her death,
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: donne, nonfiction
"è importante che non mi lasci dominare da quel che mi sta succedendo. in un modo o nell'altro deve rimanere un fatto subordinato al resto- voglio dire: non ci si dovrebbe mai lasciar paralizzare da una cosa sola, per grave che essa sia, la gran corrente della vita deve continuare a scorrere"
(fulgido e fondamentale)
Cathrine ☯️
How can I put a star rating on edited personal diary pages and letters written from a transit camp just prior to transport to Auschwitz? I cannot. Discovered and published 40 years after the author’s death, they introduce us to Etty, a 27 year old Jewish woman in the Netherlands who is on a parallel journey of self-discovery. She reads Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, and loves philosophy and Rilke. Facing the Holocaust with eyes wide open, she can write: ‘…when left to myself, I suddenly ...more
Sep 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, incredible book! Basically an older Anne Frank, Etty is a super modern woman in her late-twenties in Amsterdam. Her diaries make her feel so present, with her evocative writing style and intelligent, ahead-of-her-times kind of life. She lives in a house with roommates from all over, takes lovers of both sexes, and works as a Russian teacher and assistant psychologist. What's most spell-bounding is the way in which the Nazi regime appears in her diary: slowly, through comments such as ...more
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the diary (and letters) of a young, sensitive, intelligent, loving Dutch Jewish woman during the Nazi occupation, living in Amsterdam and ultimately dying In a concentration camp. Sounds familiar? Yes, but Etty is older than Anne Frank, more mature, more complex. She is highly spiritual in a completely personal way. Her mind and heart continue to shine even as the Nazi net around her slowly closes, and ultimately kills her. I'll never forget this book, though I find it hard to re-read it ...more
“Il gioco della vita di Etty si dispiega nell’incontro con le persone, in piena gratuità, nell’ascoltare tutti con un’empatia sempre crescente. Eppure il gioco non si esprime compiutamente, anche se è vero che, per essere tale, deve essere proprio ludico, gratuito, fantasioso”.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esther Hillesum, detta Etty, ebrea olandese vittima della Shoah, fu una grande donna, forte e positiva. Il suo diario prende avvio nel 1941 e si interrompe nel 1943 con il trasferimento da Amsterdam al campo di transito di Westerbork, poco prima della fine ad Auschwitz. La tragedia personale e collettiva ancora apparentemente lontana, il diario riporta annotazioni e riflessioni interessanti, con la grande donna che certamente traspare, ma devo dire che il livello letterario si è rilevato inferio ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-author
'Er is niets aan te doen, ik zal m'n problemen moeten oplossen en ik heb altijd het gevoel, dat, wanneer ik ze voor mij oplos, ik ze ook voor duizend andere vrouwen oplos. En daarom moet ik me 'auseinandersetzen' met alles.

--> Oh Esther... jij ook voor mij, en ik, wie weet, een heel klein beetje ook voor jou...
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, memoir
Vorrei tanto poter trasmettere ai tempi futuri tutta l'umanità che conservo in me stessa, malgrado le mie esperienze quotidiane.

Non conoscevo Etty Hillesum ma sfogliando il catalogo della casa editrice inglese Persephone, ho scoperto che il suo diario (e anche una raccolta di lettere) sono tradotti in italiano. Etty era un'olandese di origine ebraica che nel 1940, quando l'Olanda si arrese alla Germania nazista, aveva ventisei anni e viveva ad Amsterdam, dove studiava e lavorava. Qui conobbe lo
Lord Beardsley
Apr 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: holocaust masochists
Shelves: read2007, favorites
It's a shame Etty Hillesum is not as well known as Anne Frank. She's the Anne Frank for girls in their 20s-30s. She was someone I wish I could be friends or make out with. She was a cool, complicated, intellectual Jewish Dutch girl who died in the gas chambers. She was recomended to me by a friend a long time ago, and this was the first book of hers I was able to get my hands on. I wish that I could have gotten her diaries before I read the letters. While these were interesting, they weren't (I' ...more
Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew from Amsterdam; she studied Russian, gave Russian lessons, and kept a diary, focusing mainly on her love affair with psychologist Julius Spier and her efforts to deal personally with the effects of the Nazis taking control of the Netherlands. In 1942, she went to Westerbork, the camp where Dutch Jews were assembled for deportation to other concentration camps; she wrote letters to friends back in Amsterdam, before she was eventually sent to Auschwitz, where she died ...more
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, spirit
Among Holocaust literature, one of the most hopeful; EH is a sensual, compassionate, honest & nonreligious woman of prayer. One of her prayers:

"the jasmine behind my house has been completely ruined by the rains and storms of the last few days; its white blossoms are floating about in muddy black pools on the low garage roof. but somewhere inside me the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed, just as profusely and delicately as ever it did. and it spreads its scent round the house in which
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I took this book out of the library in Amsterdam when I had a couple of weeks to spend there. Man! Out of nowhere it blew me away. Or rather, it wasn't even on such a large outward scale. It was the story of someone going deep inside their own soul, in the hardest of hard time, to open up to all of her life. Because it's written without pretension (because it is a diary she was just keeping for herself), and because she writes through the ups and downs, it feels like a very real journey and ther ...more
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in my undergraduate philosophy class and was absolutely blown away because I felt like I knew Etty Hillesum. I identified so much with her and she was able to express feelings that I had but couldn't express myself. She was Jewish and living in the midst of a Nazi occupation. Not something I can identify with at all, yet we had so much in common. I wanted to know her.
Gary Hallford
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This would be on my list of "Best 20 Books Ever Written". Ms. Hillesum was an inspiring and gifted person who brings the human and inhumane circumstances of her reality into clear focus. Without any doubt this is the most suggested book I ever reference as "must reads".
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A first-hand account of terrible events always resonates strongly I think, but when that first-hand account is beautifully written, with real spiritual depth and intelligence it becomes something rather more special. Etty Hillesum a young Jewish, Russian scholar shared a house with a group of other intellectuals in Amsterdam during World War Two. Etty’s remarkable diaries shine a light on the changing times as the Nazi’s vile agenda and the continually worsening strictures placed upon Jewish cit ...more
"Oggi pomeriggio ho guardato alcune stampe giapponesi con Glassner. MI sono resa conto che è così che voglio scrivere: con altrettanto spazio intorno a poche parole. Troppe parole mi danno fastidio. Vorrei scrivere parole che siano organicamente inserite in un gran silenzio, e non parole che esistono solo per coprirlo e disperderlo: dovrebbero accentuarlo piuttosto. Come in quell'illustrazione con un ramo fiorito nell'angolo in basso: poche tenere pennellate - ma che resa dei minimi dettagli - e ...more
The Diaries conclude the first part of the book, and truly, are profound. So much wisdom in such a young woman. cannot say enough.sometimes it is as if she is speaking to and from my heart. An intimate self-portrait, a generous life, lived fully and joyously and consciously despite truly dark times.
I finished Letters From Westerbork. Etty desired to be the "thinking heart" of Westerbork and she was determined to bear witness. She succeeded. A series of letters which describes in detail the live
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
For most of the book, I kept waiting for it to start. Who wants to read page after page about that feeling of being 28 and all sexed up over some guy you can't have? Tedious. There was a nice paragraph on page 70, beginning with "Then something dawned on me." in which she explains how she came to an understanding about her father. Also, I liked the passage on page 87 that starts "There was one bright spot." about taking responsibility for rooting out the evil within and not letting ourselves off ...more
alone with the moon
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Etty Hillesums diaries have been extremely inspiring and even uplifting for me, despite the horror of what she witnessed and endured around her. She starts off a little melancholic and unsure of herself, which are feelings I can easily relate to, and she often mentions how her hormones can completely dictate her moods. Again, relateable. This is before things around her get really bad, when aquaintances take their lives out of fear of their future fate and friends and family are starting to get ...more
Emma Mc Morrow
I am heartbroken. Etty's diaries are raw and honest. You can imagine her whispering secrets, desires and philosophy to you over bitter coffee in a small kitchen. From her observations you get a real sense of the growing anti Jewish laws that gradually brought havoc to many lives in Europe. Etty's outlook on life is what makes this book so relatable. Her letters from the concentration camps are just awful. You get a real glimpse of what her outward persona was to others and how much she affected ...more
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, nonfiction
Wow. This is one of the most moving, and definitely haunting, books I have read in a long time. It evoked so many emotions in me. Anger, sadness, a feeling of helplessness, yet also wonder and joy at the beauty and the meaning of life. I wish the last diary hadn't been lost. In case you haven't heard of Etty Hillesum (I hadn't), she was writing diaries in Holland just a couple of miles away from Anne Frank, at the same time, during the WWII years. A truly remarkable book by a remarkable person.
Ellie Mercer
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This seemed like the adult version of Anne Frank. I have used thoughts and quotes from this book over the past few years in my work as a UCC minister. It is profound. The reader accompanies Etty Hillesum through her confinement and ultimately the fate that awaited her as a Jewish woman during WW2. The honesty with which she dealt with her feelings about love and life was compelling. I read it a long time ago, but her story stays with me.
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Esther 'Etty' Hillesum was a young Jewish woman whose letters and diaries, kept between 1941 and 1943 describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation. They were published posthumously in 1981, before being translated into English in 1983.

Etty spent her childhood years in Middelburg, Hilversum (1914–16), Tiel (1916–18), Winschoten (1918–24) and Deventer, from July 1924 on, where she entered
More about Etty Hillesum
“I don’t want to be anything special. I only want to try to be true to that in me which seeks to fulfill its promise.” 20 likes
“Sometimes I long for a convent cell, with the sublime wisdom of centuries set out on bookshelves all along the wall and a view across the cornfields--there must be cornfields and they must wave in the breeze--and there I would immerse myself in the wisdom of the ages and in myself. Then I might perhaps find peace and clarity. But that would be no great feat. It is right here, in this very place, in the here and the now, that I must find them. ” 12 likes
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