On 15th January 1914, Jewish diarist Esther (Etty) Hillesum was born in the elegant townhouse at Molenwater 77 in Middelburg. Etty began her short life in this house, one characterised by war and persecution, but also filled with beauty, literature, art, hope, faith, and love.
In 2017, Jewish diarist Etty Hillesum (Middelburg 1914 – Auschwitz 1943) was named the greatest Middelburger of all time. Her diaries and Westerbork letters are valuable historical documents which play an important role within the testimonies of the Shoah.
In 2020, a unique opportunity arose to create The Etty Hillesum House, an institute for education, science, art and culture in her birthplace in the provincial capital of Zeeland. Based on these four areas of activity, the Etty Hillesum House Foundation, established on 19th May 2020, will keep the memory alive of Etty Hillesum and her fellow sufferers. It will also contribute to the dissemination of knowledge and insight about a period of persecution and oppression, a time when people were confronted with war and dictatorship, and the weighty dilemmas these presented.
"The German authorities have informed us that on Tuesday March 24th, the police will come at your home after 8 o'clock in the morning to order you to leave your house and hand over the keys. You may not leave your house that day until the police give you instructions to do so. The aim is that you move to Amsterdam that day to settle there. You may take with you as much luggage as each family member can carry. You must hand over a list of what you are taking with you, filled in on the attached form, to the police when they arrive at your home. Your personal belongings must not be sold or transferred to others. By possessions, apart from what belongs to the interior of the house, are also meant stocks and jewels. (..)"
Source: letter from the Jewish Council, March 19, 1942.
In the house where Etty Hillesum was born on 15th January 1914, we present in an interactive way, the life story of the diarist in the historical context of her time. The exhibition consists of a thematic presentation in which the inner growth of Etty Hillesum is brought into connection and dialogue with the historical and local context. Etty’s wish to become the chronicler of her times, her vision and thoughts on war and anti-Semitism form a red line through the exhibition and are brought into context with the realities of life at that time in Middelburg and for her Jewish community.
Education is one of the pillars of the Etty Hillesum House. It is important that Etty's legacy, as the last witnesses of World War II fade away and future generations become increasingly distant from this history, be preserved and passed on. For primary, secondary and higher education students, the EHH itself develops educational materials, initiates and participates in various educational projects.
Etty Hillesum Research Center
Op 13 juni 2006 werd aan de Universiteit Gent op Sint-Pietersplein 5 het Etty Hillesum Onderzoekscentrum (EHOC) opgericht en officieel geopend. Het Onderzoekscentrum coördineert en stimuleert onderzoek naar de oorlogsdagboeken en -brieven van Etty Hillesum (1914-1943). Hierin participeren onderzoekers van verschillende disciplines uit binnen- en buitenland. Door centraliserend op te treden fungeert het Onderzoekscentrum als een contactforum, dat de studie naar de nagelaten geschriften van deze bijzondere auteur via website en digitaal archief wereldwijd zichtbaar maakt. Op 1 oktober 2015 werd het nieuwe Etty Hillesum Onderzoekscentrum in Middelburg geopend door de burgemeester van de stad, waar Etty Hillesum 101 jaar eerder werd geboren