The Ethics and Religious Philosophy of Etty Hillesum

Proceedings of the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University, January 2014


The Ethics and Religious Philosophy of Etty Hillesum contains the proceedings of the second international Etty Hillesum Congress at Ghent University in January 2014 and is a joint effort by fifteen Hillesum experts to shed new light on the life, works and vision of the Dutch Jewish writer Etty Hillesum (1914-1943), one of the victims of the Nazi-regime. Hillesum’s diaries and letters illustrate her heroic struggle to come to terms with her personal life in the context of the Holocaust. This volume revives Hillesum research with a comprehensive rereading of her texts. With the current rise of interest in peace studies, Judaism, the Holocaust, inter-religious dialogue, gender studies and mysticism, it is evident that this book will be invaluable to students and scholars in various disciplines.

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Klaas A.D. Smelik, D.D. (1977, University of Amsterdam), emeritus professor Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Ghent University. He has published or edited about 40 monographs, several translations and many articles on the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Philology, Judaism, Ancient History and Etty Hillesum, including Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum (Brill 2010).

Meins G.S. Coetsier, Ph.D. (2008 in Philosophy; 2012 in Comparative Science of Cultures, Ghent University), is staff member and researcher at the Etty Hillesum Research Centre. He is co-editor of Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum (Brill, 2010), and author of The Existential Philosophy of Etty Hillesum: An Analysis of Her Diaries and Letters (Brill, 2014).

Jurjen Wiersma, D.D. (1981, University of Amsterdam), professor emeritus of ethics and philosophy at the University Faculty of Protestant Theology in Brussels. Areas of interest concern the European Union as an ethico-theological challenge, Bonhoeffer studies and liberation theology. His recent publication is a monograph on liberation theology updated Bevrijdingstheologie Actueel (Garant, Antwerp-Apeldoorn 2016).
List of Contributors
Introduction, Klaas A.D. Smelik
Perspectives of Research on Etty Hillesum’s Writings, Klaas A.D. Smelik
Part One: Ethics and Religious Philosophy
Etty Hillesum’s Ethical Consciousness and the History of Jewish Philosophy, Meins G.S. Coetsier
Dimensions of Mystical Experience in the Thinking and Behavior of Etty Hillesum, Fulvio Cesare Manara †
The Journey of Etty Hillesum from Eros to Agape, Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer
Etty Hillesum as Moral-Theological Guide: From Fear to Love’s Givenness and At-Riskness, William McDonough
The Carnivalesque in the Writing and Spirituality of Etty Hillesum, John Cartner
Part Two: Kindred Spirits
Spinoza and Etty Hillesum: Two Different Views of God, Maria Luísa Ribeiro Ferreira
The Courage to Write: Biography and Religion in Etty Hillesum and Søren Kierkegaard, Ulrich Lincoln
Etty Hillesum and Primo Levi Among the Drowned and the Saved: Experiences of Inner Freedom, Maria Gabriella Nocita
Etty Hillesum and Sophie Scholl: Sisters in Fate, Marta Perrini
The Phantom of God in the (auto-)biographical writings of Hélène Cixous and Etty Hillesum, Maria Essunger
Chipping Away the Ice That Surrounds the Soul: Etty Hillesum and Dorothee Sölle, Jurjen Wiersma
Part Three: Persecution as an Ethical Challenge
Etty Hillesum’s Reaction to the Persecution of her People, Prof. Dr. Klaas A.D. Smelik
Etty Hillesum’s Views on the Nazis and Their Henchmen, Bettine Siertsema
Part Four: Sources of Inspiration
The Influence of the Work of Rainer Maria Rilke on the Mind and Heart of Etty Hillesum, Canon Patrick Woodhouse
Newly Discovered Sources of Etty Hillesum, Ria van den Brandt
General index
Index of textual references
All those interested in the history of WWII and of Judaism, Holocaust studies, Spirituality, Religious Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Ethics and Peace Studies, as well as psychologists, philosophers and theologians.
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