(Esther) Etty Hillesum (15 January 1914 – 30 November 1943) was a Jewish woman whose letters and diaries, kept between 1941 and 1943, describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation.
In the diaries, one can clearly see how the deepening anti-Jewish measures affected Etty Hillesum’s life. She applied for a position with the Jewish Council and received an appointment to the office on the Lijnbaansgracht (later the Oude Schans) on 15 July 1942. She later transferred to the department of “Social Welfare for People in Transit” at Westerbork on 30 July 1942.
Before her final departure for Westerbork, Etty gave her Amsterdam diaries to Maria Tuinzing. Etty asked her to pass them along to the writer Klaas Smelik with the request that they be published if she did not return. In 1947, Maria Tuinzig turned over the exercise books and a bundle of letters to him. His daughter Johanna (Jopie) Smelik then typed out sections of the diaries, but Klaas Smelik’s attempts to have the diaries published in the 1950s proved fruitless.
It wasn’t until 1981 that Het verstoorde leven was published in Dutch and in 1999 that it was translated into English ( An Interrupted Life) was republished. Learn more of Etty Hillesum here.