Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum

Proceedings of the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University, November 2008 


Much of the previous scholarship on Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) was done by individual scholars within the analyses of their fields. After the proceedings of the international Etty Hillesum Congress at Ghent University in November 2008, this Congress volume is the first joined effort by more than twenty Hillesum experts worldwide. It is an absorbing account of international scholarship on the life, works, and vision of the Dutch Jewish writer Etty Hillesum, whose life was shaped by the totalitarian Nazi regime. Hillesum’s diaries and letters illustrate her heroic struggle to come to terms with her personal life in the context of World War II. Building on new interest in theology, philosophy, and psychology, this book revives Hillesum research with a comprehensive rereading of both her published works and lesser-known secondary discourses on her life. The result is fascinating. With the current explosion of interest in inter-religious dialogue, peace studies, Judaism, the holocaust, gender studies, and mysticism, it is clear that this Congress volume will be invaluable to students and scholars in various disciplines.

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Klaas A. D. Smelik (1950) was born in the Netherlands and studied Theology, Semitic Languages, and Ancient History in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Leiden. He taught Old Testament and Hebrew in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Brussels, and Jewish History at the K.U. Leuven. Since 2005, he has taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Ghent University and is director of the Etty Hillesum Research Centre (EHOC) there. He edited the Dutch and English unabridged editions of Etty Hillesum’s writings and, together with Ria van den Brandt, the Etty Hillesum Studies. He has (as writer or editor) published around 30 books and 200 articles on the Hebrew Bible, ancient Hebrew inscriptions, ancient history, Jewish studies, anti-Semitism, and Etty Hillesum. This year, he hopes to finish his book on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Ria van den Brandt (1960) is a philosopher , specialized in spiritual traditions, twentieth-century life stories, poetry, and textual reception history. She is associate senior researcher at the Faculty of Religious Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen, and affiliated researcher at the Westerbork Memorial Centre in the Netherlands. Van den Brandt is editor with Klaas A.D. Smelik of the Etty Hillesum Studies. She has written many articles on Etty Hillesum and other subjects, and published (as editor or writer) around fifteen books. Her book Denken met Etty Hillesum was published in 2006. Van den Brandt’s actual field of research concerns Jewish witnesses of the Second World War, particularly witnesses of Theresienstadt.
Meins G. S. Coetsier (1977) was born in the Netherlands and obtained his B.A. and M.A. in philosophy at the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy (National University of Ireland) in Dublin. In 2008, he was awarded Doctor of Philosophy at Ghent University for his work on Eric Voegelin. Coetsier is affiliated with the Research Foundation in Flanders (FWO) and is staff member at the Etty Hillesum Research Centre (EHOC). He is author of Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence: A Voegelinian Analysis (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2008). He is currently focusing on Hillesum’s writings in the light of Eric Voegelin, Martin Buber, Emmanuel Levinas, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Table of contents
1. Introduction
Dr. Ria van den Brandt
2. A Short Biography of Etty Hillesum (1914-1943)
Prof. Dr. Klaas A.D. Smelik
Spirituality and God
3. The Roots of the Chaos and the Process of Change in Etty Hillesum
Canon Patrick Woodhouse
4. Etty Hillesum and Julius Spier: A ‘Spierituality’ on the Fringe of Religious Borders
Prof. Dr. Alexandra Pleshoyano
5. Etty Hillesum and her God
Prof. Dr. Klaas A.D. Smelik
6. “You-Consciousness” — Towards Political Theory: Etty Hillesum’s Experience and Symbolization of the Divine Presence
Dr. Meins G.S. Coetsier
7. Foundations for a Judgment of the Holocaust: Etty Hillesum’s Standard of Humanity
Prof. Dr. Brendan Purcell
8. Etty Hillesum’s Russian Vocation and Spiritual Relationship to Dostoevsky
Prof. Dr. Wil van den Bercken
9. Etty Hillesum, an ‘Atypical’ Mystic
Prof. Dr. Francesca Brezzi
10. The Reception of Etty Hillesum’s Writings in French Language
Prof. Dr. Paul Lebeau
11. Etty Hillesum and her “Catholic worshippers”: A Plea for a More Critical Approach to Etty Hillesum’s Writings
Dr. Ria van den Brandt
Writing and Witnessing
12. Etty Hillesum: A Portrait of a Holocaust Artist
Prof. Dr. Rachel Feldhay Brenner
13. “There was little of that harmonious rolling out of God’s hand”: Struggle and Balance in the Diaries of Etty Hillesum
Drs. Debbie Pevenage
14. Etty Hillesum: “écriture féminine?”
Dr. Denise de Costa
15. Feeling Life: How Etty Hillesum Becomes Word
Dr. Maria Gabriella Nocita
16. Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) and Abel Herzberg (1893-1989): Two Dutch Chroniclers of the Shoah
Dr. Bettine Siertsema
17. Two Voices from Westerbork: Etty Hillesum and Philip Mechanicus on the Transport from Camp Westerbork on 24 August 1943
Gerrit Van Oord
18. Witnesses and Victims of Massacre: The Literary Testimony of Samuel Usque and Etty Hillesum
Drs. Patricia Couto
19. Let’s Talk about Hope! Etty Hillesum’s Future-perspective — “We may suffer, but we must not succumb.”
Mr. Manja Pach
20. Context, Dilemmas and Misunderstandings during the Composition and Publication of An Interrupted Life, Etty Hillesum’s Diary, 1941-1943
Drs. Jan Geurt Gaarlandt
The ‘Thinking Heart’
21. Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Works of Etty Hillesum
Prof. Dr. Fulvio C. Manara
22. Why is Etty Hillesum a Great Thinker?
Prof. Dr. Maria Filomena Molder
23. Etty Hillesum’s Psychological and Spiritual Path: Towards an Ethics of Responsibility
Dr. Nadia Neri
24. The Road of Etty Hillesum to Nothingness
Frits Grimmelikhuizen
All those interested in the history of WW II, Judaism, Holocaust studies, Spirituality, Religious Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Political science and Peace Studies, as well as psychologists, philosophers and theologians.
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