Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life in the Ruins

From the diary of Etty Hillesum, p.40: 
Our house is a remarkable mixture of barbarism and culture. Spiritual riches lie within grasp, but they are left unused and unguarded, are carelessly scattered about. It is depressing, it is tragicomic, I don't know what kind of madhouse this really is, but I know that no human being can flourish here.
This is from the book, An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork, by Etty Hillesum, p.150. Etty Hillesum was a secular, assimilated Jew living in Amsterdam who died in Auswitch in 1943. The diary was written after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, while the Nazis were persecuting the Jews and shipping them off to concentration camps. Etty had a degree in law and then studied Russian language and literature. On her own she read philosophy, psychology, especially, Carl Jung, and poetry, especially Rilke. She was a patient,  personal secretary, and physical intimate of the psychoanalyst Julius Spier, also a Jew. He introduced her to the gospels and the writings of St. Augustine. Etty had several opportunities to escape the Nazi persecution, Instead she insisted on serving her fellow Jews to the very end and chose to suffer the same fate as they. Her last letter was a postcard tossed from the window of the train as it left for the concentration camp. It was found by a farmer.

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