During the onset of the AIDS epidemic, the first victims were infected before it became clear that you could prevent it. After that, many more were afflicted from carelessness, accidents, sex addiction (just like smoking but then, you’re dead in no time), you do not want to know. The gay world seemed like a battlefield.
During the height/deepest depth of the epidemic, I had an acquaintance, a very sweet guy, Paultje, who decided he wanted to part together with all the others who had died. Without telling anyone, he deliberately got himself infected and died within 2 years after terrible suffering. He was no better than the others.
We would say: modesty is beautiful but to live by, not to die by. His friends were unanimously furious and refused to nurse him. I do not judge anyone, not Paultje and not his friends because judging is too easy.
I thought about that now that Dutch television will broadcast a documentary about Etty Hillesum. During the war, she refused to go into hiding and, despite her solid Jewish background, she had developed a sort of a relationship with Christianity.
We would say: Spirituality is beautiful but not to die for. She, like most Dutch Jews, was murdered in Auschwitz. She left behind a war diary. American Christians in particular are obsessed with her story. That’s easier than Anne Frank’s because the latter was Jewish and murdered by Christian Europe. But Etty did not avoid suffering – just like Jesus. (Yes, she was Jewish, but so was Jesus.)
I find that glorification somewhat distasteful and a kind of robbery: she seems stripped of her last bit of Jewish identity.
Today, Dutch TV will broadcast the documentary Etty Hillesum – Search for a writer in wartime by director Mélinde Kassens based on a new biography. I wonder if that can restore a little bit of her Jewishness, return her a bit to the fold.