January 15 ~  Turning Inward Writing As Resistance

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes." ~ Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum

Dutch writer Esther "Etty" Hillesum (1914-1943) was born on this day and studied law and psychology in Amsterdam. One of the millions of Holocaust victims, she was best known for the insight and inspiration of her diaries.

She said, "One must also accept that one has 'uncreative' moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass."

Her diaries and letters, from 1941-1943 were published in An Interrupted Life (1982). Describing feeling like a "soul without a skin," Hillesum captured her thoughts about God and humanity in eight hand-written notebooks which she began writing nine months after Hitler's Nazis invaded the Netherlands. She continued writing for two years until her death.

"We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds," she observed. Called the adult counterpart to Anne Frank, Hillesum's writing passionately celebrated life, the human spirit, and the power of love.

Hillesum promised to "devote (her) life to curing the bad" so that "those who come after me do not have to start all over again, need not face the same difficulties."

In 1943, she and her family were sent by train to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Hillesum, in a final challenge to Nazi tyranny, wrote on a card thrown out the window, "We left the camp singing."

"God is not accountable to us, but we are to Him," she said. "I know what may lie in wait for us.... And yet I find life beautiful and meaningful."

More ETTY HILLESUM Quotations

Give yourself a moment's breath.