Born APRIL 15, 1892
The line of women in prison camp dresses shuffled past the guards. The German soldiers frisked each one. They searched the woman ahead of Corrie three times but didn’t touch her. A few minutes later, rather than search Corrie, a woman guard told her, “Move along!” That’s how God helped Corrie ten Boom sneak a Bible into the women’s barracks at Ravensbruck. Her Bible would set the tone for life in the barracks.
SEEING AS GOD SEES
The ten Boom family of Haarlem, Holland were watchmakers by trade. As each day ticked by, they also lived as devout Christians. Corrie was raised to understand that honoring God included respecting the Jewish people.
Soon after the Germans took over Holland in the spring of 1940, it became evident that the Jewish citizens needed friends. Anti-Semitic graffiti was followed by signs on the doors and windows of local shops, denying Jews service. Restaurants, theaters, even the city park posted signs with phrases like “No Jews.”The ten Boom family cringed as the dehumanization continued. Jewish businesses were broken into and rummaged through. Someone set fire to a synagogue. Then, every Jewish person was ordered to wear a patch of cloth on his or her clothes bear-ing a yellow Star of David with the word “Jew” in the center of it.
One day, Casper ten Boom, in his 80s, and daughter Corrie, then in her 40s, witnessed Jewish neighbors being carted away. Not only men and women, but children, were herded into the back of a truck. Casper told his daughter, “I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God’s eye.”
A SECRET PLACE
The ten Boom family had to intervene. Beginning in 1942, Casper began sheltering Jewish fugitives. Corrie joined the Dutch underground. Her activities began with securing ration cards for their secret household guests. However, the stark reality was that the Gestapo could demand to search the house at any time.
The solution: a secret location in the house for hiding when needed. Workers arrived to build a fake wall in part of Corrie’s bedroom. It included a panel that slid up to let people into the conceal-ed place. What’s more, the workers knew exactly how to make the new wall look as old as the rest of the century-old room.
Corrie accepted the plan. After all, she had prayed, “Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people. In any way. Any place. Any time.” For most of two years, as many as 700 Jews seeking refuge came and went without the Gestapo knowing. Then came February 1944.
Corrie lay sick in bed when it happened. She noticed the six houseguests hurriedly filing past her into the hiding place. Then a Gestapo agent entered her bedroom and ordered her downstairs. The Germans didn’t discover the hidden room. Those in it were secure and were rescued a few days later. Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father, Casper, were all taken into custody.
Casper, age 84, died at the Scheveningen prison hospital ten days later. Corrie and Betsie were separated at Scheveningen. Corrie, considered the “ringleader,” was kept in solitary confinement for four months. The ten Boom sisters were reunited to be sentenced to a concentration camp in another part of Holland. From there, they were sent to Germany
Corrie and Betsie had entered the world of dehumanization they’d seen their Jewish neighbors suffer. They were two of around 80 women forced into a boxcar. By the time they reached their destination, the air inside the boxcar was hardly breathable due to the unsanitary conditions.
At Ravensbruck, after Corrie got past the guards with her Bible, she and Betsie were placed in an overcrowded women’s barracks. Corrie hated the miserable conditions but could thank God for His grace in most of them. How-ever, she could not thank God for the fleas in the beds. That is, until later when she learned that it was the fleas that kept the guards out of the room.
Corrie and Betsie took turns at night reading aloud from their Bible. It comforted them and the hundreds of other women in their barracks. Tempers were soothed. A glint of hope in God shone into their lives.They endured standing in the cold on frigid days for early morning roll call. They survived long work days. The conclusion of Romans chapter eight became one of the scriptures that sustained them: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8:35,37, KJV).
Betsie’s health gradually worsened. She died on a winter day full of sleet. Three days later, Corrie was told she’d be released from Ravensbruck. On December 31, 1944, Corrie ten Boom became a free woman.
AFTER THE WAR
Corrie acted on her sister’s words, “We must tell people, Corrie. We must tell them what we learned.” Corrie did just that. She traveled and shared her experiences in churches and other locations. After a speaking engagement in Munich, an encounter with a former Nazi guard at Ravensbruck challenged her faith.
So many painful images flooded her mind. He told her he had become a Christian and extended his hand. “Will you forgive me?” She knew she should but wasn’t sure if she could. She silently prayed, “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.” Only then could Corrie grip his hand and say, “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart.”
Corrie recorded her experiences through the war years in the book The Hiding Place. It was published in 1971, followed by a film of the same name, released in 1975. Other books followed.
Corrie traveled and spoke for as long as she could. She died thirty years ago today, on her 91st birthday.
“Worry is like a rocking chair-it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.”
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
“God does not have problems. Only plans.”
“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest!”
“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
L4G—————————————————-L4G—————————————————–L4G LET ME KNOW: How has Corrie’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Hanks, Geoffrey. 70 Great Christians. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2000.
- Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
- Ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Washington Depot, CT: Cosen Books, 1971.
- Ten Boom, Corrie. Tramp for the Lord. Old Tappan, NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1974.
- Find books by and about Corrie ten Boom here http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_10?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=corrie+ten+boom&sprefix=corrie+ten%2Cstripbooks%2C308#/ref=sr_kk_1?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Acorrie+ten+boom&keywords=corrie+ten+boom&ie=UTF8&qid=1366031923 and here http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=corrie+ten+boom&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1.
- Listen to messages by Corrie ten Boom at http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=14&min=20&orderby=titleA&show=20.
- The Hiding Place. Directed by James F. Collier. 1975. Wesscott Marketing, February 26, 2008. DVD.
- Take a virtual tour of the ten Boom home at http://www.tenboom.com/en/.
- Youtube videos featuring Corrie ten Boom- http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=corrie+ten+boom&oq=corrie+ten+boom&gs_l=youtube.1.0.0l10.49679.53868.0.577184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1029.0j8.8.0…0.0…1ac.1.0pmhZCNwm2o.