My husband and I have just come back from our theater professor's new show, a dramatization of Etty Hillesum's letters, written during the three months that she spent in a transit camp in Holland, from June to August 1943.
Etty was a remarkable person, and you can read her journal, an account of her spiritual transformation over a relatively short period.
A young, vibrant Jewish woman, Etty had a thirst for life, and uncommon spiritual aspirations (like the French Simone Weil). Etty's journal is a valuable testimony about the evolution of the persecution of the Jews in Holland before and during WW2.
Etty volunteered her presence in the transit camps set up to ship the Jews east, to Poland, and Auschwitz, by hundreds of thousands. She selflessly accompanied her people, witnessing almost incomparable atrocities and suffering, and she did this without complaining, and without succombing to the despair that would have destroyed 99,9% of us in similar circumstances. Even in the most trying moments, she was... a ray of sunlight, an.. angel, I think you might say. And she was able to see beauty in nature around here, to see dignity TOO in the small, individual acts of the men, women, and children who came into the camp, and were shipped out massively in cattle cars.
She and her parents and brother, ironically, were shipped off to Auschwitz just a short time before the whole killing machine (yeah, you got it, I said machine...) fell apart.
One of the last things she wrote to her friends was "there should be no more words like God, suffering, war. There should be no more words. We should be content to just be".
I hear Etty. Right on.
Now, Thai, if I look back to your last post, it kind of gets me thinking about Etty's letters. How she said that there were QUOTAS for those trains. And that everybody had a number. Just a number. That names went down on lists, and there had to be just the magic NUMBER of people on those lists to go on the trains.
And I say to myself : that's exactly where Thai's line of thinking ends up. In the camps.
Sorry, but I firmly believe this.
These days, the camps are not behind barbed wire. Because, while there are no more camps, per se, there is no more need for barbed wire. Because the camp is all around us. Everywhere. The gated communities will not shut the camp out.
Because we have turned our world into the camp.
I feel very very close to Etty. Because she managed to see beauty everywhere, even in the camp.
And that is what I try to do.
And I try to undo the camp. As much as possible.
But those lists, those quotas, they keep getting in the way...