three portraits of Etty.

One-Woman Performance of Auschwitz Victim’s Diaries Brings “Etty” to Chapman University

A Holocaust survivor’s story of resilience in the face of terror is retold in the one-woman play Etty. Adapted and performed by Susan Stein, Etty is directed by Austin Pendleton as a part of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education’s fall series “Shards of Memory – Symbols of Hope.” The play will be performed on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m., Fish Interfaith Center.

Etty Hillesum’s life ended at Auschwitz when she was only 29 years old. The play is drawn entirely from her diaries and letters between 1941- 1943. The audience meets a young Dutch woman who is insightful, determined, poetic and sensual. Through Susan Stein, Etty’s voice travels across decades to speak with frankness and compassion, even for the enemy.

Trying to find reason and the meaning of life during the terror of Nazi occupation, Etty “happens upon” prayer, discovers a reality that she calls God, and opens herself to the power of being fully alive and present, all while bearing witness to the catastrophe unfolding around her. In her gentle yet forthright way, Etty asks us not to leave her as a memory that ends at Auschwitz but to let her have a “little bit of a say” in what she hopes will be a new world.

“In this tempestuous, havoc-ridden world of ours, all real communication comes from the heart,” says Etty.

Actress Susan Stein is a playwright and teaching artist living in New York City. Stein studied acting in the graduate program at New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She adapted Etty using only Hillesum’s words. She has performed the play in theaters, universities, and museums throughout the United States.

Austin Pendleton is an American film, television, and stage actor and a playwright and theater director. He is an ensemble member of the Steppenwolf Theater Company.

A conversation following the performance with Glenn Kurtz, Chapman University Presidential Fellow and author of Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film.

Other events in “Shards of Memory – Symbols of Hope,” Fall Series Include:

  • Messengers of Memory: Highlights from 20 years of prize-winning prose, poetry, art, and film representing more than 100,000 middle and high school participants in the Holocaust Art and Writing contest sponsored by The 1939 Society and Chapman University’s Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education. Through Nov. 30 at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

Admission to all programs is free. For more information, please call 714-628-7377 or visit

For more information about Etty, the play, or about Etty Hillesum, visit

Woman with red hair in yellow dress

Brittany Hanson

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