For a special holiday excursion, my sister and I had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands to visit our cousins. We were so excited for the chance to spend time with family and to explore the city of Amsterdam. We spent four days in Holland and had a wonderful experience. :)
For one of our day adventures, Amanda and I decided to take the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem. For those of you who don’t know, this picturesque little Dutch town is the setting of Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. This true story describes how Corrie and her family helped to hide Jews and other refugees from the Nazis during World War II. The ten Boom family were Christians who steadfastly believed that God had called them to help protect, feed, and shelter those who were in need. Even though they endangered their own lives and eventually ended up in concentration camps themselves, the ten Boom family refused to ignore those in need. They would follow God’s call in their lives to help the helpless no matter what the outcome.
|Outside of the ten Boom home and watch shop|
So how did the ten Boom family help the Jews? Inside Corrie’s bedroom was a secret room hidden behind the back wall. The only entrance into this room was through the bottom panel of Corrie’s closet. In order to enter the room, you had to slide the bottom panel upwards to create a small entryway. Those in hiding would crawl in this entryway and then slide the bottom panel shut so that it looked as if it was just a regular closet. The only way to find the secret room would be to open the closet and knock on the wall just above the floor. Only then could a person hear the echoing sound of a hollow wall and realize that the back wall was actually hiding an extra space. The rest of the wall was filled in completely by brick in order to mask the echo.
|Amanda crawling out of the hiding place|
The secret room could safely hide about six people if they were to remain standing. Since the room was not at all spacious or comfortable, the ten Boom family created a system so that the refugees could remain outside in the main part of the house for the majority of their time in hiding. In times of great danger, such as when a Nazi soldier or someone unknown to the family was in the house, Corrie or another family member would ring a secret alarm bell, which warned the refugees that they needed to get to cover. Each of the refugees would run to Corrie’s room and get inside the hiding place all within 70 seconds. They practiced this drill multiple times to make sure that they could all do it within the allotted 70 seconds. This was an extremely impressive task considering the size of the hiding place, the narrowness of the staircase, and the fact that the entryway was so small.
|Standing inside the hiding place|
Amanda and I both had the opportunity to stand inside the hiding place. Even though a piece of the wall had been cut out so that visitors (like us) could see more easily inside, it still felt dark, damp, and cold within the secret room. It is hard to even imagine being closed inside, trapped in complete darkness, listening, hoping, and praying that you will not be discovered.
The ten Boom family was eventually betrayed by a fellow Dutchman. Pretending that he knew someone who was in need of help, the man tricked the ten Booms into admitting that they were a safe house for Jews and others in need. The man promptly informed the Nazis that the ten Booms had been harboring Jews. On February 28, 1944, the Gestapo came and raided the ten Boom home. Though they searched and searched, the soldiers were unable to find the hiding place. Corrie was able to safely hide six people (four Jews and two Dutch underground workers) in her secret room. The refugees stayed hidden for 47 hours with nothing but room to stand, a pot for going to the restroom, and a few crackers for food. They were eventually rescued by crawling out of a window, onto the roof, and to a new safe house. The ten Boom family, however, did not get away so easily. They were all sent to Nazi concentration camps.
|View from the roof of ten Boom home|
With the exception of Corrie, all of the ten Booms died in the concentration camps. Corrie was miraculously released on the account of the guards accidentally writing her name on the wrong list. (She was supposed to be on the list to be executed with all of the other women over 50 years old.) Though she could have been overwhelmingly bitter and broken from her experiences in the concentration camp and the loss of her family, Corrie used the remaining 33 years of her life to spread God’s message of hope and forgiveness. She taught others that the love of God in her gave her the freedom and peace to forgive others—even the guards at the concentration camp who beat and tortured her and her beloved sister. Even though Corrie died in 1983 at the age of 91, her amazing story continues to touch the lives of many people.
Amanda and I thoroughly enjoyed going on the tour and learning so much about this amazing family and their story of how God used them to bless other people during World War II. For me, the most amazing aspect of this tour was the fact that the hero of the story was not Corrie ten Boom. Instead, it was God who was the unmistakable hero of this story. Corrie wanted her life to always point to Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. She wanted to share with the world that it was the love and faithfulness of an everlasting, forgiving, all-powerful, and sovereign God that gave her the strength, courage, and perseverance that she needed to keep on loving and living for others. Corrie knew that it was God who helped to keep the refugees safe, God who lead her safely out of Ravensbrück, and God was gave her the love to forgive those who had mistreated her. I’m so thankful that such an amazing story continues to be told today!