. Posted in 2013 Lenten Readings

Those few words would seem most likely to have come from some Lutherans just leaving summer camp at Calumet. It would seem much less likely that these words would have come from a Jew leaving one camp to go to another, Auschwitz, where she and thousands of other Jews would die. Still, it happened - both the singing and the dying - just 70 years ago. We know this from a post card that was thrown from a freight car full of Jews by one of its passengers, Etty Hillesum, age 29, from the Jewish community in Amsterdam, Holland. She was to die just two months later in 1943. Yes, she was part of the same Jewish community as Anne Frank. At the time of Etty's death, Anne was 14 and already writing her two year diary while in hiding with her family. Thankfully, Etty had begun a two year diary of her own in 1941. If we are open to Etty's humanity and aren't quick to judge her at times, reading her diary can stir and strengthen us in remarkable and unexpected ways.

Someone has said that "Etty's diaries are filled with a deep longing for and acceptance of God. She finds the meaning of the Holocaust in an almost desperate desire to help build a new world after the war is over. Her God is a place of refuge and repose, a place of healing which helps her imagine a better world".' Etty did not see God as responsible for what was happening in the Holocaust. What she could do though was to be a bearer of God's Presence in the camp and help people as fully as she could while she too suffered with them - and died with them. They left the camp. . . Try to read Etty's diary some time. It may be a struggle at times as we grow with her in her understanding of God's presence. . . and become more of what God would have us be. Not incidentally Anne Frank's last words in August of 1944 were, "I keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if . . ." A world full of problems? God's strength to deal with them? A better world to come? This world? That was Etty's hope. . . and is still ours.

Submitted by Don Gustafson


       Etty Hillesum - An Interrupted Life

Widely available in paperback and perhaps local libraries.