There is a close link between the Etty Hillesum family and Deventer education. In 1924 the Hillesum family came to Deventer, where Etty’s father first became deputy head and later headmaster of the municipal grammar school. He kept this position until 1940, when he was forced to resign by the Germans as a result of the Anti-Jewish measures.
Etty (Esther) Hillesum is ten years old when she comes to live in Deventer. She attends the local grammar school, leaving for Amsterdam in 1932 to read law and Slavonic languages.
Between March 1941 and October 1942 Etty Hillesum keeps a diary in which she describes her personal development. Later the war and the persecution of the Jews play an increasingly important part.
In July 1942 she voluntarily goes to Westerbork to offer her help: as a co-worker of the Jewish Council she is allowed to travel in the Netherlands, returning to Amsterdam several times. Her letters from Amsterdam and Westerbork provide a gripping account of her experiences.
Etty Hillesum refuses to go into hiding and on 6 June 1943 she returns to Westerbork, where her parents and brothers have meanwhile arrived. On 7 September she is deported to Auschwitz, where she dies on 30 November 1943.
Whereas in her letters the anti-Jewish measures and life at Westerbork are central, her diary provides a detailed description of the development of her own personality. These very diaries may be quite meaningful to youngsters, because they create a clear insight into the struggle of a young woman who is looking for balance in her life. Young people are likely to identify with the problems they may be faced with themselves.
Both Etty Hillesum’s life and works were unconventional, transgressing the fixed patterns of thought of her time. The development to a strictly personal divine awareness meant a complete breakthrough in the current view of the time and this very aspect makes her quite modern and contemporary.
See also a three video's on youtube devoted to Etty Etty Hillesum and her diary. See the video's made by the German artist Roman Kroke who was inspired by Etty's diary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgfrTIwz89g and part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAP14fWfdks. See also a video by Leonie Snatager: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpgvYmuMZjI
On the Welle there is a monument in commemoration of Etty Hillesum. It is a symbol of ‘disturbed life’