Etty Hillesum

Onderzoeks centrum



Nancy J.P. Anderson, MA (St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA)

EDUCATION St. Catherine University M.A. in Theology 2017 Thesis: “The Undercurrent of Music in the Burgeoning Spirituality of Etty Hillesum”.

College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) B.A. in Theology and Women’s Studies 2001

EXPERIENCE Presentation Introduction to Etty Hillesum 2018 Developed and presented introductory information to Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Minneapolis MN USA adult education group.

Performance Narrator Spring, 2004 Live performance/reading from the day books and letters of Etty Hillesum. Stage performance of 7 persons at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality, Saint Paul MN USA

PAPERS Etty Hillesum: Nature Enriches the Outer-Space-Within Paper for Graduate Class on Spirituality 2004

Passages on the Feminine Spiritual Journey Paper nominated and selected for presentation at the Five-State Theology Undergraduate Conference, St. Mary’s University, Winona MN USA 2000

Dissident Daughters and The Sacred Feminine Paper nominated and selected for presentation at the Five-State Theology Undergraduate Conference, St. Mary’s University, Winona MN USA 1999

MEMBERSHIPS: Phi Betta Kappa Honor Society, Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society


Conference paper:

“The Undercurrent of Music in the Burgeoning Spirituality of Etty Hillesum”




Prof. Dr. Fernando Arriero Peranton (Facultad de Teología del Norte de España, Spain)

Professor of Theology in North Spain University (Vitoria, Basque Country)

–            Discernment according to St. Ignatius Of Loyola

–            Etty Hillesum and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: living with hopefulness in the suffering.

–        Award for the best academic record of the Theology Faculty at Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca in the courses 2008-2009 y 2009-2010.

–        Award for educative innovation at Chamberí School: “Telling tales for educating in values” (2007-2008).

–        Prize of researching in Madrid Marist Province about family evolution (1996), youth education (1997) and bioethics (1998).

–        Legal representative of Etty Hillesum Foundation – Spain, delegation of Etty Hillesum Foundation (Colombia).

Member of the executive team of the IEBA (Instituto Español Bíblico y Arqueológico) in Jerusalem.

Conference paper:

A “Staretz” in Westerbork: The connections between Slavic Orthodoxy and the spirituality of Etty Hillesum

This article presents the spiritual features of Etty Hillesum in such a way that she might be called “staretz”. This Russian concept speaks about the wise monk living in an orthodox monastery. Far from jailing Etty in a specific framework, the connections between her itinerary and Slavic Orthodoxy show the great influence which her readings (Dostoievski, Tolstoi, Rilke…) exerted on her.




Prof. Dr. Emilio Baccarini (Università degli Studi Tor Vegata, Italy)


Qualifica: Professore associato
Settore scientifico-disciplinare: M-FIL/03 (Filosofia morale)
Dipartimento: Studi letterari, filosofici e di storia dell’arte

Conference paper:

“Etty Hillesum: Life as a Commitment”




Drs. Lotte Bergen (Etty Hillesum Research Centre, Middelburg, The Netherlands)

Lotte Bergen studied History at Leiden University (Netherlands) with a specialization in Political Culture and National Identities. She obtained the Master of Arts in 2015 with a thesis on Etty Hillesum and her agency. In 2013 she wrote a book about the commander of Transit Camp Westerbork entitled Albert Konrad Gemmeker: Commandant van Westerbork (Soesterberg: Uitgeverij Aspekt, 2013). She wrote “Handelingsvrijheid binnen nazibegrenzing. Etty Hillesum en haar invulling van het ‘Massenschicksal”, in: Etty Hillesum weer thuis in Middelburg, (Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2015), “Etty Hillesum en Hélène Berr. Reflecties op het nazikwaad en de moed de eigen koers te varen”, in: Etty Hillesum in weerwil van het Joodse vraagstuk, (Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2016), and “Etty Hillesum & Albert Konrad Gemmeker. Een dubbele analyse van het daderschap van de commandant van Westerbork”, in: Etty Hillesum en het pad naar zelfverwerkelijking, (Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2017). At the moment, she is a PhD candidate at the faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University. Her thesis will focus on the relationship between Hillesum’s knowledge of the Jewish fate- Massenschicksal and her agency. She is working as a history teacher and student counsellor at a high school in The Hague.

Conference paper:

“Etty Hillesum & Albert Konrad Gemmeker: A Twofold Analysis of the Perpetration of the Westerbork Commander”

Albert Konrad Gemmeker, Commander of Durchgangslager Westerbork came to be known as the ‘gentleman-commander’, because of his polite and friendly behaviour. After the war he declared, during his trial, like many perpetrators, that he didn’t know of the massive extermination of millions of innocents. Etty Hillesum, unlike Gemmeker’s judges, was not blindsided by his behaviour and in her letters she described and criticised the commander, exposing him as one of the most important executor of the extermination system; the key player in the Entjudung in the Netherlands.




Prof. Dr. Maria Clara Lucchetti Bingemer (University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Maria Clara Bingemer is a Brazilian theologian. She is married, mother of three and grand mother of five. For almost 40 years she is professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Her PhD is from the Gregorian University about the trinitarian mystic of St. Ignatius Loyola.  She teaches Fundamental Theology and the Theology of God in the department of Theology of PUC-Rio.  Her researches include theology and mystic, Women and theology, Religion and modernity.  She has books, chapters and articles in many languages, the most recent being:

A face for God, Miami, Convivium, 2014

Simone Weil, a mystic with passion and compassion, Oregon, Wipf & Stock, 2015 (also in italian by Citta Nuova, Roma and in Spanish by Ciudad Nueva, Madrid and Buenos Aires)

Latin American Theology: roots and branches, New York, Orbis, 2016

The mystery and the world, Oregon, Wipf & Stock, 2016 (in Portuguese by Rocco, Rio de Janeiro; in spanish by San Pablo, Madrid, 2017)

Conference paper:

“In the Shadows of the Past:  A Witness of the Future”.




Dr. Ria van den Brandt (Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)


Senior onderzoeker Vergelijkende Godsdienstwetenschap aan de Faculteit der Filosofie, Theologie en Religiewetenschappen, Radboud Universiteit

Conference paper:

“A Little Gandhi: Etty Hillesum’s Sources of Non-Violent Resistance in Her Booklet ‘Levenkunst’ Revisited”




Prof. Dr. Pierre Bühler (Zürich University, Switzerland)


Pierre Bühler is a retired professor for protestant theology of the Universities of Neuchâtel and Zurich (Switzerland). Born 1950 in the Swiss Jura region, he studied protestant theology and philosophy in Lausanne and Zurich. He was assistant of prof. Gerhard Ebeling in Zurich. He was professor of systematic theology in Neuchâtel (1982-1997) and in Zurich (1997-2015), and director of the institutes for hermeneutics in Neuchâtel and in Zurich.

Conference paper:

“ Les soucis des païens: la lecture de Matthieu 6,25-34 chez Søren Kierkegaard et Etty Hillesum”

We do not know if Etty Hillesum has read anything of Kierkegaard’s work, and if yes, what exactly and how intensively. But speaking of her worries about future, she quotes several times the chapter 6 in gospel of Matthew. Could it be that she knew Kierkegaard’s discourses about “the cares of the pagans”?




Dr. John Cartner (Academic Enabling Support Centre, Australia)


Dr John Cartner has been a member of the English Literature academic staff at the University of Notre Dame’s Fremantle campus since 2004, teaching across the literature program including World Literatures Today, The Western Tradition, Australian Literature, The Novel in English, Children’s Literature, Irish Literature and Literary Theory. In recent years John has joined the Academic Enabling Support Centre where he teaches a variety of units; he is also a tutor for AL100: Academic Writing, Communication and Research. John’s most recent research activity has been in the field of Holocaust Literatures, with a specific focus on the writings of Dutch-Jewish author, Etty Hillesum. He has also researched in the area of refugee representations and self-representations and has an ongoing interest in postcolonial literatures.

Conference paper:

“Dialogising Life Amidst a Culture of Death: Etty Hillesum, Her Literary Companions and Nazi Reductionism”

To read Hillesum is to witness an extraordinary personal transformation, made all the more remarkable by the circumstances in which it took place. Amidst Nazi terror, which was founded on a reductive, monologic nationalism, Etty Hillesum developed a Weltanschauung of universal proportions. By the time the horrors of Auschwitz had claimed her young life, Hillesum had attained an exceptional level of personal and spiritual maturity. Accompanying, and influencing her, on this journey to self-realisation were a multitude of voices who left their mark not only upon the pages of her diaries and letters, but upon her soul. Two of the most influential of these voices, who hold formidable positions among the annals of Weltliteratur, are the Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky and German poet, Rainer Marian Rilke. Through an analysis of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Rilke’s Book of Hours, this paper will examine the nature and impact of these literary giants upon Hillesum’s personal and spiritual outlook. It will furthermore explore the implications of Hilllesum’s dialogic outlook for contemporary times.




Dr. Stephen Cherry (Dean King’s College, Cambridge UK)


Stephen Cherry is Dean of Chape land a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge;he is also Director of Studies in Theology, Religion and  the Philosophy of Religion. He was previously Director of Ministry fort he Diocese of Durham and a Canon Residentiary of Durham Cathedra land before that rector of All Saints with Holy Trinity, Loughborough.

Stephen Cherry edited and compiled Blazing Harmonies, a dramatically interpreted reading with music, from Etty Hillesum’s diaries and letters.




Dr. Marja Clement (Amsterdam University, The Netherlands)

Marja Clement received her PhD from the University of Amsterdam with a linguistic thesis on the prose of the female Jewish Dutch writer Josepha Mendels. For ten years she was Lecturer and Senior Assistant in Dutch Studies at the University of Zurich. At the moment she is Lecturer at the Institute for Dutch Language Education of the University of Amsterdam.

Conference paper:

“The Girl Who Could Not Kneel: Etty Hillesum and the Turn Inward”

Etty Hillesum shows us in her diaries a process of turning inward and of finding the deepest and best in her, which she calls her God. In this process an important role is played by Julius Spier. But the question is, whether he also had an influence on the process of discovering and developing her state of expression – the gesture of kneeling. That still remains to be seen.




Dr. Denise de Costa (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Denise de Costa works as an independent writer. She is a Dutch specialist in the works of Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum. The English translation of her dissertation was published in 1998 at Rutgers University Press: Anne Frank & Etty Hillesum. Inscribing spirituality and sexuality.

Conference paper:

“Etty Hillesum and Charlotte Salomon: Pregnancy as Theme in Their Lives and Works”

Etty Hillesum and Charlotte Salomon were women of child-bearing age during the Second World War, but their offspring is cultural. They both were extremely creative and productive. Their choice whether or not bear a child has remarkable similarities and has everything to do with their family-background and with the Shoah.




Dr. Patricia Couto (Lisbon University, Portugal)

Patricia Couto is an integrated member of the Centro de Estudos Comparatistas Universidade de Lisboa. She was born in the Netherlands, studied Germanic Philology in Coimbra (FLUC 1975) and holds a MA in Comparative Literature (FLUL 1996) and a PhD in Translation Studies (FLUL 2012). She has taught Dutch Language and Culture at the University of Lisbon and has translated authors such as Jan Slauerhoff, Gerrit Komrij, Cees Nooteboom and Etty Hillesum.

Conference paper:

“Wandering Beyond Words: Clarice Lispector and Etty Hillesum”




Prof. Dr. Maria Essunger  (Uppsala University, Sweden)

Maria Essunger (1972) is associate professor of Systematic Theology and Studies in Worldviews, Uppsala University, Sweden. Essunger’s research is in the field of cultural theology and continental philosophy, focusing the relation between worldviews and literature. She is currently working on the French-Algerian philosopher and poet Hélène Cixous and questions concerning representation, animals, humanity, languages and writing within the framework of a larger research project on Hannah Arendt and Hélène Cixous: “The Politics of Writing. Membership, Testimony and Representation”. Her two most recent articles are entitled: “The Phantom of God in the (Auto-) biographical Writings of Hélène Cixous and Etty Hillesum” and “To Hear the Unheard. Or Reimagining Representation with Hélène Cixous and Primo Levi”.

Conference paper:

“Verbalize, Vocalize, Visualize: Creative Death and Performative Writing in the Testimonies of Etty Hillesum and Primo Levi”




Dr. William Peña Esquivel (Pontifical Javeriana University, Bogotá, Colombia)

Philosopher and Theologian of the Pontifical Javeriana University in Bogotá, Colombia. Mg. in philosophy

Thesis entitled: Fraternity and communion: the political proposal of Gabriel Marcel in the secular era.
Chaplain and teacher at The Non-Commissioned Officer Marines Academy.
Teacher of Philosophy since 2010 in the areas of anthropology, aesthetics and politics.
Currently, I am leading the program “Transcendental formation of the human being” at the NCO Marines Academy. I am an active member of the “The seminary of mystical research and humanism” which belongs to the faculty of theology at the Universidad Pontificia Javeriana.

Academic distinctions:
Medal to the academic order Javeriano, 2010
Graduated honours Cum Laudem in Masters in philosophy, 2016

Conference paper:

“Am I Really a Woman? A Question about Female Identity in Etty Hillesum” 

The configuration of human identity is not an isolated process of mystical experience. That is why, in the mystical itinerary of Etty Hillesum, her female being is intimately linked with an identity that is being constituted in parallel to her inner searches. Femininity, as a path of freedom and realization of being a woman, has a particular perspective from Etty Hillesum.




Laura Fasani, MA (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy)


Laura Fasani studied Italian Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy) with a focus on Moral Philosophy. She took her MA in Italian Philology and Literature in 2018 with a thesis on the concepts of force and justice in Simone Weil. In 2016 she wrote an article on an analysis of “The waves” by Virginia Woolf (Fra mimesi e diegesi, astrazione e scrittura. Esercizio di analisi strutturale di Le onde di Virginia Woolf, Rivista di Letteratura Teatrale, Fabrizio Serra editore, Pisa-Roma, 9, 2016, pp. 157-168). From 2015 to 2017 she has worked as a contributor with two Italian magazines (Madre and Città&Dintorni) and in 2018 for the Literary Review’s editorial staff in London. At the moment, she’s working as a freelancer for a local newspaper in her hometown.

Conference paper:

“Etty Hillesum and Simone Weil Against Force: A Similar Look at Reality”

Although from different perspectives, Etty Hillesum and Simone Weil shared an attentive look on reality that made them able to understand contemporary historical facts and to reject totalitarianism from its roots. They also believed in the need of refounding Europe with new values far from force, the history leader until their time.




Prof. Dr. Maria Luísa Ribeiro Ferreira (Lisbon University, Portugal)

Full Professor of Modern Philosophy at Universidade de Lisboa.  Taught   Modern Philosophy,  Didactics of Philosophy, Women’s Studies, and several Seminars on Spinoza and Hume. Chief coordinator of several  projects. Last publication: Marginalidade e Alternativa. Vinte e Seis Filósofas para o Século XXI, Lisboa, Colibri, 2016. Besides this  she has published more twenty eight books, and  many articles in the areas of Teaching Philosophy, Gender Philosophy, Modern Philosophy (mainly on Spinoza). Searcher of Centro de Filosofia of Universidade de Lisboa,  vice director of Sociedade Científica of Universidade Católica Portuguesa, member of GT Benedictus de Spinoza,  Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Brasil; of Seminário Spinoza, Spain, of  Association des Amis de Spinoza, France and of  Accion Integrada Hispaña-Portugal , Leibniz. She also belongs to the Boarding  Direction of Sociedade de Ética Ambiental.

Conference paper:

“A Powerless God – Etty Hillesum and Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

Etty Hillesum and Dietrich Bonhöffer lived in what Hannah Arendt called “Dark Times.” Their lives and work show us that in the worst places and situations light is possible and hope can be maintained. Besides emphasising how they practiced an ethics of care, this paper gives a particular importance to their concept of God – a powerless God who needs men’s help




 Sara Gomel, BA (La Sapienzia University, Rome, Italy)


Sara Gomel is completing a master’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Rome la Sapienza, with a thesis on self-narrative and ethics through Etty Hillesum’s diaries. She received her bachelor degree in Philosophy at the University of Paris 1 – Panthéon La Sorbonne in 2015, with a focus on English history and literature.

Since the beginning of her studies she has been working on education and social projects for children and more specifically on projects of philosophy for children in schools and museums. She is currently working at Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, being in charge of several activities and workshops for children and families. She contributes to magazines on cultural and philosophical topics and has a monthly column on philosophy for children in the magazine DafDaf.

Conference paper:

“Meeting the Other Through Self-Narration: The Example of Etty Hillesum’s Diaries”

Self-narration has often been perceived as a narcissistic display of the self, a rupture from the world. Etty Hillesum’s Diary has not been spared the accusation, though being the setting of an opposite process, where narrative and ethics mingle: from self-narration to a dis-closure of the self, and from there to the encounter with the other.




Dr. Maribeth Kallemeyn (Salem, USA)

Maribeth Kallemeyn (1955) is a licensed clinical psychologist working in private practice in Salem, Oregon. She completed a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and an MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. She is currently an Advanced Candidate working toward certification as a Jungian analyst through the C. G. Jung Institute of the Pacific Northwest.

Conference paper:

“A Story of Individuation in the Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum: A Jungian Perspective”




Thalia Gur Klein, MA (Leiden University, The Netherlands)


Drs. English Literature and Yiddish (Leiden University)

Drs. Jewish and Bible Studies (Amsterdam Univeristy)


Conference paper:

“Everyday Items as a Silent Testimony to Human Suffering as Well as Empathy and Resilience in Etty Hillesum’s Diaries”

Everyday Items in Etty Hillesum’s Diaries show how changes, removal or their lack reflect a transformation from era of peace to time of war, atrocity and persecution. Common items In uncommon time resurface in the diaries as silent testimony to human suffering as well human ability to inflict suffering, all the same resurfacing human resilience, empathy and belief in humanity and its divine creator.




Drs. Judith Koelemeijer (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)


Judith Koelemeijer, vooral bekend geworden door haar boek ‘Het zwijgen van Maria Zachea – een ware familiegeschiedenis’ uit 2001, heeft in 2014 van de Etty Hillesum Stichting in Amsterdam de opdracht gekregen om een biografie van Etty Hillesum te schrijven. In dit kader is zij ook bij het onderzoek van het EHOC naar de levensgeschiedenis van Etty Hillesum betrokken.

Conference paper:

“Getting Closer to Etty: The Dilemmas of a Biographer”




Dr. Marc P. Lalonde (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)


Senior Lecturer, Department of Religions and Cultures, Concordia University, Montreal

Conference paper:

“A Beautiful Midrash: Reflections on The Diary of Etty Hillesum”

This paper examines the theological reflections in the diary of Hillesum as a form of modern midrash. In Midrash and Literature (1986), “midrash” constitutes an exploratory mode of interpretation characterized by “spontaneity,” “waywardness,” and “provisionality” (ix-xiii).  I suggest that these midrashic qualities are central for comprehending Hillesum’s approach to God.




Dr. Ulrich Lincoln (Wolfsburg, Germany)

Dr. Ulrich Lincoln is a Lutheran pastor and area dean in Wolfsburg/Germany. He has published books on S. Kierkegaard (Äußerung. Untersuchungen zum Handlungsbegriff in Kierkegaards “Die Taten der Liebe”, 2000) and theological aesthetics (“Die Theologie und das Hören”, 2014). He is the co-founder of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Centre London and has written and lectured on Bonhoeffer, Levinas, Etty Hillesum and related topics in theology and philosophy.

Conference paper:

“The Mystery of Encounter: Poetry and Faith After Auschwitz in the Work of Paul Celan and Etty Hillesum”




Milagros G. Quintela Mathison, MA (University of Mysticism, in Ávila, Spain)

Master in Psychology from the United States International University. Worked for a major consulting Firm at the Human Resources Department in Venezuela for over twenty years and for the University of Mysticism, in Ávila, Spain for the last seven years. There she teaches a seminar and other subjects on the minor writings of Saint Teresa of Jesus. She also works at the Library of the University and as a translator and coordinator of the cultural-spiritual program for the English speaking groups. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite.

She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite.

Conference paper:

“The experience of the Presence in Teresa of Avila and Etty Hillesum”

This reflection wants to be an approach to the experience of the Presence of the mystery in Teresa of Avila and Etty Hillesum. The opening to the Presence that transcends was a key determinant in their spiritual journey.




Prof. Dr. William C. McDonough (St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA)

Professor of Theology, Coordinator, MA in Theology Program St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota

Conference paper:

“What Can We Learn From Etty Hillesum About Healing Trauma?: Toward an Ethics That Takes Trauma Seriously”

Hillesum is a religious model for responding to trauma. Tempted to withdraw by “splitting [herself] up” (4 June 1942), she instead saw herself as “heir to a great spirtual heritage” (18 September 1942), committing to “love everyone … made in God’s image” (18 August 1943). She is our contemproary Jacob, our ancestor in the qahal goyim (Genesis 35.11).




Prof. Dr. Barbara Morrill (California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, USA)

Barbara Morrill, PhD, is Core Faculty of the Integral Counseling Psychology Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA. She is a Clinical Psychologist licensed in CA, and has been in private practice for 25 years. Barbara has spent much of her life exploring women’s social, psychological, and spiritual development, with an emphasis on intergenerational trauma. Her study of Etty Hillesum began in 2000, culminating with a presentation at the 2008 International Transpersonal Congress, New Delhi, India, entitled Being in the Face of Annihilation: Transformation Through Writing as Inquiry in the lives of two Dutch Women During the Holocaust: Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) and Jetteke Frijda (1925-present). Her continued study has been about the Evolution of Consciousness as well as spiritual practice/community with The Diamond Approach with A.H. Almaas and Karen Johnson. She presented on Unfolding Toward Being; Etty Hillesum and the Evolution of Consciousness in January, 2014 at the Second International Congress of the Etty Hillesum Research Center at Ghent University in Belgium.

Conference paper:

“‘The Contours of These Times’: Etty Hillesum as Chronicler of Love Transcending Evil in Her Time, For Our Time, For All Times”

This paper explores aspects of Etty Hillesum’s process of transcending the evil in her time, which may be seen as a guide for engaging the seemingly ubiquitous rise of neo-facism in America and western Europe in our time.


“… Come to grips with these terrible times…find answers to the many questions they pose…

The only certainties about what is right and wrong are those that spring from deep within oneself.”

Etty Hillesum




Drs. Alexandra Nagel (Leiden University, The Netherlands)

Alexandra Nagel is enrolled as a PhD candidate at the faculty of Humanities, Leiden University. Her dissertation will focus on the psychochirologist Julius Spier. The background to this research is an MA in the history of western esotericism, which she finished in 2007 at the University of Amsterdam.

Conference paper:

“Etty Hillesum’s Hand Analysis: The Prologue to Her Diaries”




Dr. Rosana Elena Navarro Sánchez (Pontifical Javeriana University, Bogotá, Colombia)

Doctor in Theology of the Pontifical Javeriana University in Bogotá and Research Professor of the same University. Her professional work has been in the field of Education: College Professor for 15 years and Professor at the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Javeriana University, for over 20 years. Coordinator of the Seminar on Mysticism and Humanism since 2004. Teacher at the Carmelite Institute of Spirituality from 2016.

Founder and Director of the Etty Hillesum Colombia Foundation

Conference paper:

“Suffering, silence and wisdom in Etty Hillesum”

This reflection is an approach to the evolution of the meaning of suffering in Etty Hillesum and its relationship with silence and wisdom. All this as the key to contribute to a re-comprehension of the meaning of life in the midst of crisis.




Dr. Maria Gabriella Nocita (Angelicum University, Rome, Italy)

Maria Gabriella Nocita (1977)  wrote her Ph.D. dissertation in 2012 on Etty Hillesum: “Dalle tenebre della Shoah una paideia per umanarsi”. Her studies focus in particular on the Philosophy of Education, but she is also involved in Special Educational Needs. She teachs History of Philosophy (Modern and Contemporary Periods) and Intersubjective Pedagogy in the Angelicum University of Rome.

Nocita wrote “Etty Hillesum and Primo Levi: experiences of inner freedom between the drowned and the saved”, in The Ethics and Religious Philosophy of Etty Hillesum, Proceedings of the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University, January 2014, edited by K. A.D. Smelik, M. G.S. Coetsier and Jurjen Wiersma, Brill, Leiden-Boston, 2017; “Etty Hillesum en Primo Levi tussen de verdronkenen en de geredden: Ervaringen van innerlijke vrijheid”, in: Etty Hillesum weer thuis in Middelburg, (Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2015) 139-158; “Quale Dio? Un modello del Dio personale di Ulrich Beck?”, in Etty Hillesum: Studi sulla vita e le opere, ed. Gerrit Van Oord (Sant’Oreste: Apeiron, 2012) 74-93; “Feeling life: Etty Hillesum becomes word”, in: Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum: Proceedings of the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University, November 2008, eds. Klaas A.D. Smelik, Ria van den Brandt and Meins G.S. Coetsier (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2010) 279-295; “Sentire la vita: Etty Hillesum si fa parola,” in: La comunicazione umanante, ed. G. Scaramuzzo (Rome: Aracne, 2009) 37-86. She is member at the Etty Hillesum Research Community of University of Bergamo.

Conference paper:

“Feeding the Soul: Etty Hillesum’s Pedagogical and Spiritual Path”

Is it possible to feeding the soul? Etty Hillesum is certain that “the inner world is as real as the outer world” Following her thoughts, we learn that only by cultivating our souls we contribute, even now, to the regeneration of humanity.




Gerrit Van Oord (Centro Studi Etty Hillesum, Rome, Italy)


Comparative Holocaust Research. External member of the Etty Hillesum Research Center (EHOC) in Gent – Belgium.  Coordinator for Italy on behalf of the same research institute. Editor of the Italian website dedicated to Etty Hillesum. Publisher and co-owner of the publishing company Italian Apeiron Editori.

Conference paper:

“Etty Hillesum in the Boot: The Steadily Growth of Italian Readers and Writers Inspired by Her Diaries and Letters”



Bernard H. Penney, MA (Pittsboro, North Carolina, USA)

Bernard Penney is a retired professional from the computer science industry where he worked for over 30 years.  He is the youngest child of Leonie Snatager, the excitable red-headed best friend of Etty Hillesum.  Since Leonie’s passing in 2013 at the age of 95, Bernard discovered a treasure trove of his mothers war-time papers, including letters to and from Etty Hillesum and Julius Spier, as well as a detailed diary written while she was in hiding.  He has since been working to translate and disseminate these historically valuable documents.

Conference paper:

“ Cosmic Life Lessons from Etty Hillesum and Leonie Snatager”

Both Etty Hillesum and Leonie Snatager lived truly mystical lives.  They were each connected to something much larger than just themselves, and the ordinary everyday physical life that most of us experience.  This became clear in the manner in which they lived out their unique lives. This talk will try to capture that mystical experience by exploring this connection that they had, and the life lessons we can all learn from them, so that we too can begin to live mystical and connected lives.



Dr. Bettine Siertsema (VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Bettine Siertsema studied Dutch language and literature at VU University in Amsterdam. She took her PhD with a dissertation on Dutch diaries and memoirs on the concentration camps.  She is an assistent professor in history at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. In 2018 a collection on the earliest Dutch testimonies on the Holocaust is due, as is a collection of her essays on Holocaust literature. She currently works on a book about the figure of the Holocaust perpetrator in literature. Another field of interest is the interface of religion and literature.

Conference paper:

“New Light on Etty Hillesum’s Stay in Westerbork by Ies Spetter, a Colleague of Hers at the Jewish Council”




Prof. Dr. Klaas A.D. Smelik (Etty Hillesum Research Centre, Middelburg, The Netherlands)


Conference paper:

“’My Beloved Desk, the Best Place on this Earth’: Etty Hillesum Says Goodbye to her Familiar Surroundings”




Prof. Dr. Jurjen Wiersma (FPG, Brussels, Belgium)


Jurjen Wiersma (1943) studied theology and got his doctoral degree at the University of Amsterdam, 1981. Professor emeritus of ethics and philosophy at the University Faculty of of Protestant Theology in Brussels.

Areas of interest concern the European Union, Bonhoeffer Studies, and liberation theology.

Co-editor of the Etty Hillesum Studies. Recent publication is a monograph on liberation theology updated, Bevrijdingstheologie Actueel, 2016.

Conference paper:

“In Search of Interconnectedness: Care Ethics Focus of Etty Hillesum’s Engagement”

During Etty Hillesums lifetime the humanum was seriously threatened, while humanity’s survival was at stake. She was profoundly committed to helping persecuted subjects, particularly inmates of Camp Westerbork. Her engagement was a humanist stance, which examined more closely should be linked both to philosophical and theological considerations. However, essentially she wanted to sincerely respond to the Old Testament appeal of JHWH: ‘Where are you in the world, Adam, Eve?’




Revd. Canon Patrick Woodhouse (Wells Cathedral, UK)

Conference paper:

“That Passage Spent a Difficult Morning With Me…’ The Struggle of Etty Hillesum to go on Seeing Differently”




Lucrezia Zanardi (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Dortmund)

Visual artist, she studied at the IUAV University of Venice and at the University of Arts and Design of Karlsruhe, graduated in Multimedial Arts in Venice (2016).
She is actually attending a Master in Photography and Photographic Studies at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Dortmund, Germany.
Internships at the Educational Department of MAMBo Museum (Bologna) and at District Kunst- und Kulturförderung gGmbH (Berlin).
She took part in several group projects and exhibitions in Italy and Germany, the most recent being Grenzen der Fotografie, in occasion of F2 Fotofestival Dortmund.
She lives in Dortmund.

Conference paper:

“Present Traces of a Past Existence: A Photographic Research”

Starting from Etty’s descriptions, I follow the new present story of her journey,  places and atmospheres she writes about,  combined with the photographic and  archived material we rely upon. This is an attempt to tell a past and present story, to give importance to the social function      of subjectivity and the narration of a self experience which needs to be shared.