Expanding our territory and avoiding the crowds in the city, we ventured out via train to Haarlem – a small town dripping with charm and historical significance. Destination – the Corrie ten Boom house. Although not nearly as popular (or crowded) as Anne Frank’s home but still as poignant and important in its contribution towards the Dutch Resistance and the harboring of Jewish fugitives during the Nazi regime in World War 2.
Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was raised in Haarlem, the third daughter of Casper ten Boom who was a highly skilled watch/clock maker and devout Christian in the small settlement of Haarlem. The faith of the ten Boom family inspired them to serve all those in need. As the the German occupation in the Netherlands escalated, and they watched their Jewish neighbors being systematically deported, they set up their home as a safe refuge for persecuted Jews, students and intellectuals on the run. Casper and his family compassionately took them in, feeding, housing, and caring for hundreds of people over the years to protect them from certain death.
Corrie’s bedroom was remodeled by a local builder sympathetic to the Jews plight. He installed a false wall behind a bookshelf creating a space roughly two feet by eight feet, just enough space for six adults to stand shoulder to shoulder. When the signal bell rang in the house as a warning that the Gestapo were approaching, the Jews had roughly one minute to hurry up two flights of stairs, duck into the small hidden door behind the bookshelf and hide in a space that provided nothing more than adequate ventilation and a small chamber pot. There they hid until Corrie or another family member gave the “all safe” signal. In one case, six adult men hid for three full days taking turns leaning on each other to “sleep” while they waited.
Corrie and her family were ultimately betrayed by a neighbor and they were arrested and incarcerated; her father to prison in Haarlem where he only lived for ten days and the rest of the family to various concentration camps. She and her beloved sister Betsie, ended up in the notorious Ravensburg camp where Betsie died. The rest of her family succumbed to atrocities in the camps and she was left alone. But miraculously, instead of giving in to hate, she chose to forgive. After the war she began a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors, that also took in former German sympathizers, a testimony to her spirit of forgiveness. In 1946, she started a world-wide ministry and took her message of the power of forgiveness around the world to over 60 countries and their leaders. The Hiding Place is one of her many inspiring books about redemption; how one woman found joy amidst the storms of unimaginable tragedy with divine hope as her anchor.