Etty Hillesum

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And if God does not help me to go on, then I shall have to help God.

Esther "Etty" Hillesum (15 January 191430 November 1943) was the author of confessional letters and diaries which describe both her religious awakening and the persecutions of Jewish people in Amsterdam during the German occupation. In 1943 she was deported and killed in Auschwitz concentration camp.



Etty: The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943

Edited by Klaas A. D. Smelik, translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002. On Google Books.
  • There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then He must be dug out again.
    • 26 August 1941, p. 91
  • And if God does not help me to go on, then I shall have to help God. — The surface of the earth is gradually turning into one great prison camp, and soon there will be nobody left outside. … I don't fool myself about the real state of affairs, and I've even dropped the pretense that I'm out to help others. I shall merely try to help God as best I can, and if I succeed in doing that, then I shall be of use to others as well. But I mustn't have heroic illusions about that either.
    • 11 July 1942, p. 484-85
  • Dear God, these are anxious times. Tonight for the first time I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me. I shall promise You one thing, God, just one very small thing: I shall never burden my today with cares about my tomorrow, although that takes some practice. Each day is sufficient unto itself. I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that You cannot help us, that we must help You to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn't seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last.
    • 12 July 1942, p. 488-89
  • The absence of hatred in no way implies the absence of moral indig­nation.
    • January 1943, p. 590
  • The sky is full of birds, the purple lupins stand up so regally and peacefully, two little old women have sat down on the box for a chat, the sun is shining on my face — and right before our eyes, mass murder. The whole thing is simply beyond comprehension.
    • 8 June 1943, p. 602
  • You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, oh God, one great dialogue. At night, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer.
    • 18 August 1943, p. 640
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