Empty Cold Place

from my journal for October 24 2021

Checking email, I saw something about how corporate interests are acting against the freedom of the internet.  I could feel the “bad guys” closing in, and it reminded me of Etty Hillesum as yet another Nazi restriction of Jews closes them in more.  So I went & got her book out & started reading again.  A good companion for these times.

Etty Hillesum is a Dutch Jew who died in Auschwitz in 1943.  She started a journal in February 1941, when she began working with Julius Spier.  He was a fascinating man, a teacher and therapist who worked with reading the palm of the hand.  Working with him made possible a huge transformation of her life.

from my journal for Sunday, December 19

Just spent the 10:00-11:00 time, when I should have been at Quaker Meeting, reading Etty Hillesum’s letters.  At first most are to friends in Westerbork from Etty in Amsterdam.  She had already spent several summer months in Westerbork, gone back to Amsterdam on leave.  While she was in Amsterdam, Spier died, and her health collapsed.  She kept trying to get back to Westerbork, managed in November — when she wrote a long letter describing what things were like in Westerbork.  That letter was published.  Then suddenly, in December, she’s back in Amsterdam.

Westerbork was a transit camp.  Jews were rounded up and kept there until they were sent on transport to Auschwitz. At first it was supposed that they were going to a work camp. but gradually it became apparent, when old people and sick people were sent, that it was a death camp.

I think because I woke this morning in such a cold empty space, I feel more at home in Westerbork than anywhere else.  The cold, the snow, and the blue sky and bright sun remind me of that first winter in Portland, when I had returned after a breakdown in California.  I wonder if I’m being triggered back into that time by the weather and the social distancing.  I have met only one person, while walking Mocha, since I got up, otherwise I’ve been alone here.

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