Etty explores the Holocaust’s impact through a young woman’s words

Etty, a play based on the diaries of a young Dutch Jewish woman as she prepared for deportation to the death camps, will be performed Sunday, Nov. 8,  at St. Michael's Church. (Ricardo Barros photo)

Etty, a play based on the diaries of a young Dutch Jewish woman as she prepared for deportation to the death camps, will be performed Sunday, Nov. 8,  at St. Michael's Church. (Ricardo Barros photo)

By Lee Chottiner

Etty, a Holocaust play with a message of tolerance and social justice, which is co-sponsored by St. Michael Parish and Temple Shalom, will be performed at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8, at St. Michael’s Church.

The event coincides with Kristallnacht, a night of violent demonstrations against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria from Nov. 9-10, 1938. Kristallnacht means Night of Broken Glass; the name is derived from the shards of glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.

The play is based on the diaries and letters of Esther “Etty” Hillesum, a 29-year-old Dutch Jewish woman who lived, and perished, during the Holocaust.

Upon the recommendation of her therapist, Hillesum began a diary on March 8, 1941, to cope with her depression. Hoping to become a writer, she used those diaries to convey her literary growth and spiritual transformation.

As the Nazis began to deport Jews, she among them, east to the death camps, Hillesum prepared for the three-day journey by exploring through her writing “this piece of history.” She rose above any hatred or bitterness she may have harbored and, in the process, asked her readers not to leave her at Auschwitz, but to let her have a “bit of a say” in what she hopes will be a new and better world.

Her writings were published posthumously in 1981.

Actress Susan Stein stars in the one-woman, one-act production, followed by a dialogue with the audience; Msgr. Jeremiah McSweeney and Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner will participate in the discussion.

Austin Pendleton, a famed actor, director and playwright (Fiddler on the Roof, My Cousin Vinny and Catch-22) directed the play, which has been performed internationally, including at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum.

Etty is free and open to the public for adults and high school students. For more information, visit ettyplay.org.