Stein to deliver war diaries performance

'Etty' chronicles a life during Nazi occupation in Amsterdam

When actress and playwright Susan Stein comes to campus, it’ll be Etty Hillesum’s message she brings with her – one she first discovered at a yard sale for 50 cents.

In 1994, Stein purchased Hillesum’s letters and diaries, on which she later based her one-woman play, “Etty,” which she’ll perform on campus Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Rapaporte Treasure Hall. The diaries were kept during Nazi occupation by Hillesum, a young Jewish woman from Amsterdam.

Directed by Austin Pendleton, the work has been praised for its honesty and complexity, and was nominated by Amnesty International for the organization’s Freedom of Expression Award.

“It is a portrayal of one woman's struggle to sustain her humanity and
connection to Judaism in the face of the Nazi's unspeakable brutality,” says Elena Korn ’13, International and Global Studies, Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies, & Women's and Gender Studies, who worked with help to bring the show to campus.

“[Stein] really fell in love with the character and did a ton of research and discovered this person who was alive so long,” Korn added. “And that’s when she started writing the play.”

Chronicling the two-year period between 1941 and her death in 1943, the play uses Hillesum’s own words and delves into her dire ethical dilemmas and her struggle to maintain faith in humanity on the eve of her deportation to Auschwitz. Her diaries of this time were published two decades ago as “An Interrupted Life.”

Following the performance, Stein; Antony Polonsky, the Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies; Dawn Skorczewski, director of University Writing and associate professor of English; and Palle Yourgrau, Harry A. Wolfson Professor of Philosophy, will participate in a discussion, moderated by Andreas Teuber, associate professor of philosophy.

The free event is sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies and the departments of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, philosophy and theater arts, as well as the programs in peace and conflict studies, coexistence and conflict, international sustainable development and the Institute for the Study of European Jewry. 

Categories: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

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