Friday, January 25, 2019

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

The Hiding Place
Corrie Ten Boom
Published 1971

The Hiding Place is about the ten Boom family, of Holland, who, with the aid of an underground organization, smuggled nearly 800 Dutch Jewish men, women, and children to safety, preserving their lives during WWII. They - the ten Boom family - paid the ultimate price with their own lives.

Corrie ten Boom was in her 40s when Hitler invaded Holland, and life changed drastically for her family and their watch repair business. Food and supplies became scarce and were rationed, curfews were set, young Dutch men were kidnapped and forced into the German army, and all forms of communication were confiscated. 

The ten Booms witnessed Jewish businesses close, Jews forced to wear the yellow Star of David, and finally, the disappearance of people. It was then that Corrie and her family wanted to do something to help God's people, as they referred to them. 

The ten Booms worked with the Dutch underground resistance smuggling Jews to the country, to homes where people willingly hid them. She managed to receive stolen ration cards, though she hated lying and stealing; nonetheless, it helped feed the extra people passing through her home. 

Eventually, the ten Booms had a secret space built inside Corrie's bedroom wall so they could hide the Jews staying with them. It was to be the hiding place.

The hiding place in Corrie's bedroom

They knew it was only time before a raid, and they were prepared. In February, 1944, Corrie and her family, as well as 30 members of the underground, were arrested, but not before the six Jews in the ten Boom home fled into the hiding space. There they safely remained for three days until someone from the underground was able to rescue and secure them in another location. 

As for Corrie and her sister, Betsie, it was a different ending, an ordeal I struggle to put it into words. The specifics are horrifying, but I do suggest you read this for yourself.

Betsie and Corrie ten Boom

What I rather write about is Corrie's character, and Betsie's, too. The ten Booms were a Christian family...the kind that followed Christ's example. Lying and stealing were frowned upon, but when  [man's government]* violated God's law, it was right to disobey government. And they did everything they needed to do to save the Jewish people who were targeted by the German occupation. 
*Sidebar: This was not a legitimate government because Holland was invaded, and a usurper was making his own perverse law the law of the land.
When I first read The Hiding Place several years ago, it made sense that the book was named after the hiding place in Corrie's bedroom; however, after this second read, I realize there is a second meaning. Corrie noted Scripture her father quoted: 
Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word . . . Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe . . . 
 For I too had a hiding place when things were bad. Jesus was this place, the Rock cleft for me. 
Jesus was their hiding place; He is our hiding place.

Corrie and Betsie remembered this throughout the year they were in prison, and it sustained them in the most amazing ways. Considering her situation, she reflected how the Gospels were a "pattern of God's activity," and, she wondered, "if defeat was only the beginning..."
. . . what conceivable victory could come from a place like this."
Soon, Corrie learned that Betsie was safe in a separate cell, and that all of their other family members and friends had been released. Through a letter, she read that "all the watches in the closet [were] safe," which was code for "All six Jews left hiding in the closet were safe and placed in other locations. They escaped and were free!" She also found out that her father had died ten days after his arrest; though difficult to absorb, she found it a comfort to know he was now seeing Jesus face to face.

After four months at the Dutch holding prison, Corrie and Betsie were reunited and sent to Scheveningen prison, in Holland, for political dissidents. For the first time, Corrie marveled what kind of person her sister was because she prayed for the prison guards. "Betsie saw a wounded human being."
Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes...
Some how the sisters found out who had exposed their underground operations to the Gestapo.  Corrie said she could kill him, but Betsie had been praying for him. When Corrie was alone with her thoughts, she felt convicted that she had been guilty of the same sin, murder, because she murdered him with her heart and mouth. That night she forgave him.

When the world was closing in on Germany, in 1944, the prisoners were moved again, into Germany. Ravensbruck was the notorious women's extermination camp. It was here that one thing became evident to Corrie and Betsie "...from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope."
The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. "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 loves us."
The bunks in their barrack were infested with fleas, something Betsie said they should be thankful for..."Give thanks in all circumstances." Corrie was sure that there was no way she could be thankful for fleas, but Betsie clarified that it did not say to be thankful only in pleasant circumstances. Fleas were part of the world God had placed the sisters.

Since Corrie and Betsie had smuggled a Bible into Ravensbruck, they held nightly Bible meetings in their barrack with the other women. Initially, they were extremely careful not to alert the guards; but soon after, it was apparent that no guard would ever enter their barracks. Why? Fleas! (Be thankful in all things.)

The Ten Boom Museum in Haarlem, Netherlands

Meanwhile, Betsie was physically perishing. Her health had been weak since they were arrested. Corrie did all she could to care for her sister, while her sister was always more concerned with the health and well being of others. It also seemed the weaker she became, the bolder her witness.

When Corrie was thinking about how to help the prisoners after their release, providing a place for people to go, to care for and love them...Betsie was thinking about a place to help the German guards, "to show them that love is greater." Betsie loved their enemies and prayed for those who persecuted them.

Corrie wrote about how she struggled with the sin of selfishness and self-centeredness. She called it "the ploy of Satan." During a brief time when Betsie was in the "hospital" - which was not really a hospital, and I doubt there was actual medical help anywhere on the grounds - Corrie had to lead Bible meetings without her sister. She came to the story of Paul and his affliction. Three times he requested God to remove it from him, and three times God told Paul to rely on Him. It was then that Corrie understood that her sin had been a false belief in her own strength and power to transform, when it was all Christ.

I am sad to say that Betsie died shortly after this, and only twelve days before Corrie was released. Later it was learned that her release was probably a mistake, and furthermore, two weeks later, the women in her age group from her barracks were sent to the gas chamber.

Getting home was not easy. It seemed the whole world was void of love and care; but Corrie did make it back to her family home, to learn the fate of loved ones and more sad news.

In 1945, she opened a rehabilitation home in Holland for hurting people. Some had spent time in concentration camps and others spent years in hiding. Some were prisoners of the Japanese in Indonesia. Everyone had to learn forgiveness and to work out the sorrow within him.

One day, after a speaking engagement, a former S. S. guard of Ravensbruck came up to shake Corrie's hand, and Corrie froze.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man: was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. 
Suddenly, when she raised her hand out to meet his, she felt "a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed [her]." Corrie learned that it is not our forgiveness or goodness that "the world's healing hinges, but on His."
When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Isn't that beautiful? And it is true, too.

There are no 'ifs' in God's kingdom. I could hear [Betsie's] soft voice saying it. His timing is perfect. His will is our hiding place. Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will! Don't let me go mad by poking about outside it.

Is this book for you?

I am very tempted to say that everyone should read this book. It is written in a way that anyone who reads it, junior high age and up, can understand it. It speaks to the heart. It is about hatred and forgiveness, suffering and caring and true love. It is about the human condition. It is about changing hearts. It is about perseverance and doing hard things. It is a testament of God using others to do His work in this sin-filled world, so that it is not so ugly. And it is historical -- one gets a first hand account of the results of Nazi-Germany's evil and destruction beyond the Jewish people. It affected everyone. Yes, actually, everyone needs to read this book. 


Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I read this when I was a teen and also found it powerful. I ought to revisit it, and read more of her writings.

Stephen said...

Her stpry is SO incredible. First the fact that the people they were hiding escaped the Nazis' grip, but then the fact that Corrie herself didn't surrender to hate.

Ruth said...

Yes, her entire family was remarkable. It almost seemed too good to be true -- like Hollywood could not write a more unbelievably amazing story.

Ruth said...

Oh, you should (and I never like telling people they should read this or that, but you should). If nothing else, to see how you respond to it now as an adult, a wife, and a mom.

Paula Vince said...

She was an incredible woman with a heartbreaking story. I do love the double meaning of the title, which I'm sure nobody could imagine being any different.

Cleo @ Classical Carousel said...

Such a powerful story. In a world where people tend to think its okay to seek vengeance if they've been wronged, we need more stories like this one. Great review!

Ruth said...

I think I'm a little slow on the is why it took me another read to "get it."

Ruth said...

Cleo, so true. (Quite frankly, I have yet to see or hear about or read about a revolt or a request for restitution by the very people affected by Hitler's vile policies -- or even of Stalin, and the like. People who survived these tragedies seem to have picked up the pieces and got back to living. It could be my lack of knowledge of the topic, but I just don't see it. It's beyond my understanding.) So, yes, Corrie's story is necessary in these days when so many are out to get what they are entitled to and destroy those whom they deem in the way. Her story is a breath of fresh air.


Joseph said...

I'm due for a reread of this glorious testimony to the power of God's forgiveness. Some years ago, my family and I visited the Ten Boom Museum you pictured here. What a blessing. The only tourist attraction I've ever been to where I also heard the gospel - delivered by the volunteer guide.

Ruth said...

WOW! What an opportunity to see this, and to hear the gospel while visiting. I imagine Corrie would be praising God all over again to know that her home and story is still blessing people and sharing the gospel long after her passing. Did you take lots of pictures? Also, I do not know how far apart the museums are, but did you also get to visit Anne Frank's hiding place while you were in Holland?

Linda said...

Amazing book! I remember reading it with my children when we were homeschooling. I need to reread The Hiding Place.

Joseph said...

No, we didn't make it to Anne Frank House (they're only about 30 km apart). I'm sure we must have taken pictures, but I'm not certain where they are, or maybe they weren't allowed; I don't remember. Both my wife and I are of Dutch descent, and had the privilege to live in The Netherlands for a couple years. It was marvelous - wonderful people.

Ruth said...

Aww, that's a bummer that you didn't make it.

I've never been to the Netherlands, but I know you are right about the Dutch being wonderful people b/c one of the sweetest, kindest, most gentlest women I've ever known was Dutch...immigrated to Canada after WWII (she was a Dutch war bride), then she moved to California, which is how we met. She passed away last November and was like a grandmother to me. I just loved her so much.

Ruth said...

I agree.

Carol said...

Wonderful review, Ruth. I’ve read it a couple of times; once aloud to my kids & as you said, it’s an incredible story.
I think Corrie was in her 50’s when they were all taken to prison & up until then she had such a sheltered life, as did her sister & father from what I remember. Beautiful to see someone older just entering what would turn out to be a worldwide ministry when lots of others would be looking at retiring & putting their feet up! Very inspiring!

Cleo @ Classical Carousel said...

Quite frankly, I like people who "get on with it". We don't want to forget but living in the past is unhealthy. I've always admired the Jewish people for their fortitude.