A Sixth Form Afternoon with Etty Hillesum

1:45pm - 4:00pm
Friday 24 February
The Malthouse Theatre, King's

You may have heard of Anne Frank.  This afternoon is a chance to learn about another holocaust diarist Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) in conversation with:

Lord Rowan Williams (Former Archbishop of Canterbury)

Professor Klaas Smelik (Editor of Etty Hillesum’s dairy)

Dr Lotte Bergen (Director of the Etty Hillesum House in Middelburg)

Hosted by The King’s School, Canterbury at the Malthouse Theatre, St Stephen’s Road, Canterbury, CT2 7JA

An invitation to Sixth form students and teachers in EKST.

In the context of a first-hand account of the holocaust and the life of Jewish people living in Amsterdam and in the concentration camps under Nazi occupation, Etty Hillesum wrote a diary between the ages of 27-29 which records her remarkable inner, spiritual development and an honest account of her romantic attachments.  Even more remarkably she consistently defends the values of life over death, peace over war, dignity over humiliation, meaning over despair and love over hatred.  Defending these human values is what it meant, for her, “to save a little piece of God.”  She defines what she means by God as that which is deepest and best in herself and in others.  She finds comfort and strength in prayerful dialogue with this God.  To say that human beings have a responsibility to defend the values of life, peace, dignity, meaning and love is to say that we must take responsibility for God when God seems unable to defend these values.  If we can do that then we can say, as Etty keeps on saying even in the concentration camp, ‘Life is beautiful.’  Etty Hillesum focusses on those things holds life together: love, friendship, inner harmony and human dignity; responses to oppression like hatred, anger, bitterness and the barbarism of revenge should be resisted in the interests of creating a better, more truly human future.

Anyone studying the history of the Second World War, religious studies, philosophy or even politics will find in Etty Hillesum unique insights on their topics of study.  In that we all have an interest in creating a better future reading Etty Hillesum can only be a useful human resource for our own communal and personal development.

Come and hear the panel discuss themes from Etty Hillesum’s diary and ask them questions.


Lord Rowan Williams has written, “A Confessions of St Augustine for our day … Etty Hillesum deserves to be read far more deeply and extensively than she has been thus far.”  Don Cupitt writes, “When Etty Hillesum is read more carefully and with greater honesty, I believe she will be considered one of the most important religious figures of the past 100 years.”  The humanist Andre Comte-Sponville has written, “I have too much admiration for Pascal and Leibniz, Bach and Tolstoy – to say nothing of Gandhi, Etty Hillesum or Martin Luther King – to turn up my nose at the faith that inspired them.”

Book Now