Etty Hillesum’s birth place
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 Her diaries and Westerbork letters are valuable historical documents which play an important role within the testimonies of the Shoah.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.
Mission and Vision
The ideas of Etty Hillesum are undiminished and socially relevant. The question of how to relate as an individual to issues such as enemy-thinking, polarisation, anti-Semitism, but also solidarity and freedom, is an ongoing challenge and a necessary and urgent question for all of us. It is of utmost importance that, as the last witnesses of World War II fall away and future generations become increasingly distant from this period of history, its legacy remains. All the more reason, therefore, to strive to safeguard the history and thought of Etty Hillesum for future generations through a physical and tangible place of remembrance in Etty's own birthplace.
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.
In the café, overlooking the green Molenwater Park, there is space for dialogue and to reflect on the exhibition, meet people or simply sit down for a coffee while reading good literature, working or studying. Should you be looking for a good book to read, we also sell a selection of books about Etty Hillesum, both online and in the cafe.
Read the visitors' experiences here
"This house, the presentation, the reception and the overall program was very inspiring, encouraging and with great life wisdom that will benefit everyone".
"Beautiful exhibition, respectful and informative".
"Very impressive. I actually can't quite find the words. Etty lives on, as she she wanted. Also due to your beautiful initiative her words will always be there for infinite generations that will come after us". Mede dankzij jullie mooie initiatief. Haar woorden zullen er altijd zijn voor oneindig veel generatie die nog na ons komen”.
"Not enough attention can be paid to Etty Hillesum. She shows us that even in the darkest conditions, it is possible to see the positive. She wanted to be with others to help them. She also teaches us that you have to work on yourself permanently. I am very pleased with the house". Zij vertelt ons dat je in de donkerste omstandigheden, het positieve moet zien. Ze wilde bij de anderen zijn om te helpen. Ze leert ons ook dat je permanent aan jezelf moet werken. Ik ben zo blij dat dit huis er is”.
"Valuable initiative. Nice to see Etty's story in this form".