Pilgrims Depart Leiden

If life was good in Leiden, Holland, why did the pilgrims depart for the New World?  William Bradford gave several reasons:

  • They were working hard but living in small houses and their families were growing
  • They were beginning to experience extreme poverty
  • Their children were becoming more Dutch than they were English
  • The Netherlands was too liberal and they feared for their children
  • Threat of war from Catholic Spain
  • King James of England would fight against Spain, but would take control of all Dutch congregations
  • Their religious freedom was under threat
  • They strongly opposed the many followers of Jacobus Armenius’ doctrine in Leiden
  • The pilgrim printing press of William Brewster had been confiscated by the British Ambassador, and he had to go into hiding
  • It was increasingly difficult to maintain their language, religion and habits

So they began to make preparations for leaving Holland.  It was not going to be easy.  Only one third of their six hundred-plus congregation could go.  This meant that the one they most wanted to go–John Robinson–would have to stay behind.  When it came time for departure, Robinson declared a day of fasting and prayer, culminating in a farewell dinner that celebrated with goose, pudding and wine; along with the singing of psalms.  Edward Winslow wrote:

We refreshed ourselves, after our tears, with the singing of Psalms, making joyful melody in our hearts as well as with the voice, there being many in the congregation very expert in music; and indeed it was the sweetest melody that ever mine ears have heard.  [The Light and the Glory, Peter Marshall & David Manuel, pg. 113]

Many accompanied them by barge to Delftshaven (Rotterdam).

The chosen boat–the Speedwell–was loaded with all the supplies, and before departure, John Robinson knelt on the dock and prayed for them, as they followed his lead in kneeling.  They sailed for Southampton, where they would meet the ninety-ton Mayflower and a good number of “strangers” that would make the voyage with them.  It’s interesting that the colonies here would be founded by people of various faiths, some of no faith at all.  They came from different backgrounds and careers.  They wanted to establish a free and open society.  It truly was a remarkable event.

John Robinson didn’t live much longer after the Pilgrims left; he died in Leiden in 1625 and is buried at Pieterskerk.  There are signs for him inside and outside of the church.  This is what it says (note that the dates are of his ministry in Leiden to the pilgrims):

In Memory of


Pastor of the English Church in Leyden

1609 – 1625

His Broadly Tolerant Mind

Guided and Developed the Religious Life of


of Him These Walls Enshrine All That Was Mortal

His Undying Spirit

Still Dominates the Consciences of a Mighty Nation

In the Land Beyond the Seas

This tablet was erected by the General Society of Mayflower

Descendants in the United States of America A.D. 1928.

This sign memorializes family members that died in Leiden before the journey to America. Included are children of both Isaac Allerton and John Allerton, Robert Cushman’s wife and children, Samuel Fuller’s wife and child, William Brewster’s child and John Robinson’s three children.

These brave people faced many hardships, but their days were only going to get harder, for 1/2 of the pilgrims would die in the first harsh winter in America.

It appears that the fears of the Pilgrims regarding staying in Holland were well founded.  It was true that the Dutch society caused the church to merge into the culture.  A sign in the church says this:

For a small minority like the Pilgrims, it was difficult to maintain their own language, religion and habits.  There were several marriages with Walloons, who had similar religious viewpoints.  After many of the Pilgrims left for America it proved impossible to remain a clearly defined community.  After their own preacher Robinson died, the people left behind in Leiden joined Dutch churches and, after 1630, the English reformed church.  Finally the group merged into the Leiden population.

I had always heard that they fled to America for religious freedom, but it was also about not losing the specific doctrines and beliefs that they held so sacred.  They were concerned for their children above all.  Their leaders had often debated with other religious leaders in public, such as follower of Jacobus Arminius, who is buried in Pieterskerk.

Another thing I had not known previously was that the tradition of Thanksgiving most likely came from Leiden.  It had been a custom there since October 3, 1574.  From another sign in the church:

After the siege of 1574 it became custom to have an annual service of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Church, for the liberation and the delivery of food to a hungry city.  Herring and white bread are distributed to remind people of the ships with food that came into the city via the river Vliet.  People also eat “hotspot,” a kind of vegetable stew that the Spaniards are reputed to have left behind.  Some people believe that Thanksgiving Day consists of elements of this celebration added onto a harvest festival.

Another sign reveals the practice of civil marriage, which also came from Leiden:

Civil marriage is a Dutch invention.  Normally, only a marriage performed by the state church was legal.  Because the Republic had such a large Roman Catholic minority it was impossible to deny marriage to almost half the population.  The justices could marry those who did not belong to the state church.  Their own church could bless the marriage afterwards.  Only the civil marriage was legally binding.  The Pilgrims brought this invention with them to America.

Finally, the custom of elected administrators came from Leiden:

Leiden was divided into districts (bon) and neighborhoods (gebuurte).  Chosen district governors ruled a city district.  The district took care of fire fighting and prevention, preventing pollution, the collection of special taxes and the distribution of money amongst the poor.  The neighbourhood took care of things like burial rituals and other neighbourly tasks.  The election of civil administrators, as proscribed by the Mayflower Compact, can be traced back to this system and to the election of church officials.

As you can see, there is much to learn about the Pilgrim Fathers from travels and from many great books.  I would recommend The Light and the Glory, by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Saints and Strangers, by George F. Willison, Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick, and Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners, Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation, by Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs.  Of course, original books by the pilgrims are always great too — William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Robinson, Thomas Morton and others.  What courageous lives they lived, and all because of their deep religious beliefs and concerns that these be properly handed down to their children!



Pilgrim History

It was interesting to see the information and memorials related to the Pilgrims in the Cathedral of Pieterskerk, Leiden, Holland.  This one area of the church is dedicated to them.

Here are some of the posters on display:

Several legal documents can be found here, such as this wedding record for Francis Cooke and Hester Mahieu.  William Bradford and Dorothy May’s marriage is also registered at the town hall.


This is what they said of their time in Leiden:

For these and some other reasons they removed to Leyden, a fair and beautiful city, and of a sweet situation, but made more famous by the university wherewith it is adorned…they fell to such trades and employments as they best could, valuing peace and their spiritual comfort above any other riches whatsoever; and at length they came to raise a competent and comfortable living, and with hard and continual labor.  Being thus settled, after many difficulties, they continued many years in a comfortable condition, enjoying much sweet and delightful society and spiritual comfort together, in the ways of God, under the able ministry and prudent government of Mr. John Robinson and Mr. William Brewster…they grew in knowledge and other gifts and graces of the spirit of God; and lived together in peace, and love, and holiness.  And many came unto them from divers parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation…  [New England’s Memorial, Nathaniel Morton, William Bradford, Thomas Prince, Edward Winslow, pg. 254]



Pilgrims in Leiden

I was excited to walk in the Pilgrim’s footsteps, because my grandpa’s ancestry descends from several of them.  From the Mayflower, he was descended from William and Alice Mullins, John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden, George and Juliana (Carpenter) Morton,  Thomas and Joseph Rogers, and Richard Warren.  However, not all of these arrived from Leiden and not all the Leiden Pilgrims travelled on the Mayflower.

They were called Separatists, for they wanted to separate both from the Catholic Church and from the Church of England, which they felt had not reformed enough from Catholicism.  Because of this, they found themselves banned from England and persecuted in their congregation in Scrooby, England.  In 1607 they booked passage on a ship but were betrayed by the captain.  William Brewster, John Robinson and others were imprisoned in Boston, Lincolnshire, England’s medieval guild hall.  A year later they tried again and finally made their way to Amsterdam, little by little, in various passages (some had even made the move in the late 1500’s).  Here they could practice their religion freely.  William Bradford wrote:

They all got over at length, some at one time and some at another, and some at one place and some in another, and met again according to their desires, with no small rejoicing.

After a year in Amsterdam, over 100 of the separatists decided to move to Leiden, Holland, in 1609, which initially worked out very well for them.

Chris and I were there in 2015, and made our way towards Pieterskerk Cathedral, near to their homes and businesses.

Sure enough, we found an alley named after William Brewster, where he lived and worked.

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants placed this sign in 1955, 335 years after the Pilgrims sailed to America.

The alleyway is very narrow and at the very end is a building where William Brewster and Edward Winslow set type for books that were forbidden in England.  These books were then smuggled back into England under much danger.

I loved seeing the old brick along this way.

We then turned around and headed back to the archway.

Here I am near Brewster alley.

We also found the area where the Pilgrim Pastor, John Robinson lived, and where he held services.  This almshouse replaced his home soon after his death.

Through the archway and back in the courtyard behind his home is where most of the Pilgrims lived, in small homes.

Just imagine all the singing, worship and discussion that took place in this courtyard!

Corrie’s Quotes

I have been sharing stories from Corrie ten Boom, and today I want to share some final quotes from Corrie.  What an amazing woman; humble and unpretentious; always admitting her faults, loving others, even enemies; and trusting God in the darkest of situations.  I’m truly thankful for her life and witness.

Have you read my book A Prisoner and Yet...”  In it you can see that Jesus’ light is stronger than the deepest darkness.  Only those who have had the experience of being in a concentration camp can know how deep that darkness really is.  No matter how deep down into darkness one goes, deeper still are the everlasting arms.  — Corrie ten Boom, Not Good if Detached, pg. 119

God gave me a concentration camp.  It was in Darmstadt, where shortly after the War I found several of my former guards.  They were then prisoners; I was free.  They had been very cruel.  How their experiences during the War had demoralized them.  Young women still, now imprisoned behind barbed wire; but more imprisoned by demoniacal powers.  I could speak to them of Jesus’ victory, His love for sinners and His finished work on the Cross when He carried the sins of the whole world, theirs included.

When I returned to the camp it was empty.  The women had been freed or sent to other prisons  The same week I rented the whole camp, and now it is a place where refugees can stay while they build houses in the neighborhood…What a change bright-green paint and flowers, many flowers, can make to a place!  … Human love has failed in this world, but the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Romans 5:5).  It is this love that overcomes, and is able to change even a colorless prison camp into a garden of flowers. –Ibid, pg. 25-26

A widow of the suburb of Blemendaal provided an estate to Corrie, to be used as a place of healing for victims of the holocaust.  Not surprisingly, it looked exactly as Betsie had envisioned it, right down to the inlaid wood floors and statues.

Round the final bend, we saw it, a fifty-six room mansion in the center of a vast lawn.  Two elderly gardeners were poking about the flowerbeds…[there were] inlaid wood floors inside, and a grand gallery around a central hall, and–and bas-relief statues, set along the walls…

“We’ve let the gardens go,” Mrs. Bierens de Haan said.  “But I thought we might put them back in shape.  Don’t you think released prisoners might find therapy in growing things?”  — Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 245

This is exactly what Betsie had seen.

In June the first of many hundreds of people arrived at the beautiful home in Bloemendaal.  Silent or endlessly relating their losses, withdrawn or fiercely aggressive, every one was a damaged human being.  Not all had been in concentration camps; some had spent two, three, even four years hidden in attic rooms and back closets here in Holland…The home in Bloemendaal served ex-prisoners and other war victims exclusively until 1950, when it also began to receive people in need of care from the population at large.  It is still in operation today, in its own new building with patients from many parts of Europe.  Since 1967 it has been governed by the Dutch Reformed Church.  — Ibid, pg. 245

Corrie shared one story that was particularly meaningful to me:

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time.  And suddenly it was all there–the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.  “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said.  “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

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.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not.  I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our 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.  — Ibid, pg. 247-248

Finally, Corrie used an embroidered crown to express an important truth, and that piece of embroidery is in the family home for all to see today.  This story is told by Corrie’s traveling companion and biographer, Elizabeth Sherrill:

I remember the time thirteen-year-old Liz and I were helping Corrie unpack.  From the bottom of the suitcase, Liz lifted a folded cloth with some very amateur-looking needlework on it–uneven stitches, mismatched colors, loose threads, snarls.

“What are you making?” Liz asked, bewildered.

“Oh, that’s not mine, Corrie said.  “That’s the work of the greatest weaver of all.”

Liz looked dubiously at the tangled mess.

“But Liz,” Corrie told her, “you’re looking at the wrong side!”  She took the sorry thing from Liz’s hand.  “This is what our lives look like, from our limited viewpoint.”

Then, with a flourish, Corrie shook open the cloth and turned it around to display a magnificent crown embroidered in red, purple, and gold.  “But when we turn over the threads of our lives to God, this is what He sees!”  — Ibid, pg. 250-251

Corrie passed away on her ninety-first birthday–April 15, 1983.  It is a traditional Jewish belief that maintains that only specially blessed people are granted the privilege of dying on their birthday.  That would be Corrie!

Make sure you check out this website, to see more photos and stories about Corrie; you can also go on a virtual tour of the house that is outstanding and well worth the time it takes.  Blessings as you hear about this amazing believer!


Corrie and Betsie ten Boom found themselves at a dreaded concentration camp because of their loving support of Jews:

From the crest of the hill we saw it, like a vast scar on the green German landscape; a city of low gray barracks surrounded by concrete walls on which guard towers rose at intervals.  In the very center, a square smokestack emitted a thin gray vapor into the blue sky.


Like a whispered curse the word passed back through the lines.  This was the notorious women’s extermination camp whose name we had heard even in Haarlem…As Betsie and I stumbled down the hill, I felt the Bible bumping between my shoulder blades.  God’s good news.  Was it to this world that He had spoken it?  — Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 201

Miraculously, according to her prayers, Corrie was able to carry the small Bible into the complex with her:

It made a bulge you could have seen across the Grote Markt.  I flattened it out as best I could, pushing it down, tugging the sweater around my waist, but there was no real concealing it beneath the thin cotton dress.  And all the while I had the incredible feeling that it didn’t matter, that this was not my business, but God’s.  That all I had to do was walk straight ahead.

As we trooped back out through the shower room door, the S.S. men ran their hands over every prisoner, front, back, and sides.  The woman ahead of me was searched three times.  Behind me, Betsie was searched.  No hand touched me…And so Betsie and I arrived in Barracks 8 in the small hours of that morning, bringing not only the Bible, but a new knowledge of the power of Him whose story it was.  — Ibid, pg. 205

They would learn more about His power and about His ways of working on our behalf:

The instant of dismissal we would mob the door of Barracks 8, stepping on each others’ heels in our eagerness to get inside, to shrink the world back to understandable proportions.  It grew harder and harder.  Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering.  Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.  Will You carry this too, Lord Jesus?

But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear.  And that was the reason the two of us were here.  Why others should suffer we were not shown.  As for us, 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.  Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light.  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 loved us.”

I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face.  More than conquerors…It was not a wish.  It was a fact.  We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute–poor, hated, hungry  We are more than conquerors.  Not “we shall be.”  We are!  Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible.  One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible.  The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.  — Ibid, pg. 206

Corrie and Betsie had cried out to God, “How can we live in such a place?” and had received an answer:  “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-18).  Betsie exclaimed:

That’s it, Corrie!  That’s His answer.  “Give thanks in all circumstances!”  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I said.

“Such as being assigned here together.”

I bit my lip.  “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!”

“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.”

I looked down at the Bible.  “Yes!  Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here!  Thank you for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“Yes,” said Betsie.  “Thank You for the very crowding here.  Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!”  She looked at me expectantly.  “Corrie!” she prodded.

“Oh, all right.  Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for–”

The fleas!  This was too much.  “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted.  “It doesn’t say, “in pleasant circumstances.”  Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.  But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.  –Ibid, pg. 210

It wasn’t until later that they discovered why it was true that they could thank God even for the fleas:

Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together.  Her eyes were twinkling.

“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.

“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said.  “Well–I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she  said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t.  She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards.  And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph fro her voice:  “Because of the fleas!  That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place.  I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for a creature I could see no use for.  –Ibid, pg. 220

Betsie kept talking about what they would do when they were released, which she insisted would be by the first of the year.  They would have a house where people who had been hurt by concentration camps would come for healing and transition until they could return to normal life.

It’s such a beautiful house, Corrie!  The floors are all inlaid wood, with statues set in the walls and a broad staircase sweeping down.  And gardens!  Gardens all around it where they can plant flowers.  It will do them such good, Corrie, to care for flowers!  — Ibid, pg. 223

In the final hours before her death from sickness, cold and hunger, Betsie also described a healing place for Germans, for the very guards that had harmed them:

“A camp, Corrie–a concentration camp.  But we’re…in charge…”  I had to bend very close to hear.  The camp was in Germany.  It was no longer a prison, but a home where people who had been warped by this philosophy of hate and force could come to learn another way.  There were no walls, no barbed wire, and the barracks had windowboxes.  “It will be so good for them…watching things grow.  People can learn to love, from flowers…”  I knew by now which people she meant.  The German people…

“The barracks are gray, Corrie, but we’ll paint them green!  Bright, light green, like springtime.”  — Ibid, pg. 226-227

Only God can cause a person to love an enemy in this way.  Betsie knew her Lord, and He was the one that gave her such love.  This was a great encouragement and example for Corrie, who survived the holocaust and administered the very facilities that Betsie had envisioned.  Betsie passed away December 16, 1944, at Ravensbruck, and Corrie was released a week later, due to a clerical error; both had been “released” before the New Year.  All women Corrie’s age were supposed to have been sent to the gas chambers, to make room for arriving prisoners.  But God had other plans for her.

There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.  — Betsie ten Boom



I’ve been detailing the life of Corrie ten Boom.  The family was taken to prison when the Nazis discovered they had hundreds of ration cards.  After  all, over 800 people had come through this home to escape the holocaust. However, the good news was that the Gestapo did not find their hidden room with six people in hiding.

Prison was brutal for the family.  Corrie’s father died only ten days later.  He’d been offered freedom if he would stop helping Jews, but refused it:

Suddenly the chief interrogator’s eye fell on Father.  “That old man!”  he cried.  “Did he have to be arrested?  You, old man!”

Willem led Father up to the desk.  The Gestapo chief leaned forward.  “I’d like to send you home, old fellow,” he said.  “I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble.”

I could not see Father’s face, only the erect carriage of his shoulders and the halo of white hair above them.  But I heard his answer.

“If I go home today,” he said evenly and clearly, “tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.”

The amiability drained from the other man’s face.  “Get back in line!” he shouted.  “Schnell!  This court will tolerate no more delays!”

But delays seemed all that this court existed for.  As we inched along the counter, there were endless repetitions of questions, endless consulting of papers, endless coming and going of officials.  Outside the windows the short winter day was fading.  We had not eaten since the rolls and water at dawn.  — Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 151-152

Her family was comforted by the fact that Father was safely in the arms of God, and were thankful he didn’t have to suffer any longer in prison.  In addition, he had actually prepared his daughters for this moment:

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed.  “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam–when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffed a few times, considering this.

“Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly.  And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too.  Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.  When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.”  — Ibid, pg. 44

In God’s grace, Casper’s death allowed the family to be reunited in the prison.

Betsie was thin and prison-pale.  But it was Willem who shocked me.  His face was gaunt, yellow, and pain-haunted…As for Father, [we] had learned a few more facts about his last days.  He had apparently become ill in his cell and had been taken by car to the municipal hospital in The Hague.  There, no bed had been available.  Father had died in a corridor, separated somehow from his records or any clue as to his identity.  Hospital authorities had buried the unknown old man in the paupers’ cemetery.

The time of mourning and gathering for the family also allowed Nollie to smuggle in a small bible to Corrie:

Swiftly I opened the package that Nollie had pressed into my hand with the first embrace.  It was what my leaping heart had told me:  a Bible, the entire Book in a compact volume, tucked inside a small pouch with a string for wearing around the neck as we had once carried our identity cards.  I dropped it quickly over my head and down my back beneath my blouse.  I couldn’t even find words with which to thank her:  the day before, in the shower line, I had given away my last remaining Gospel.  — Ibid, pg. 178-179

That Bible would be life for the sisters, Corrie and Betsie, for prison life was only about to become much worse than anything they could imagine, as they were soon transported deep into Germany itself.

Here are some of the items in the museum that was once their beloved home.  A Rabbi once brought some valuable books to Casper ten Boom for safe-keeping; I don’t know if this is one of them, or perhaps the family Bible, but it did survive the holocaust.  Corrie spoke of books in their home in the final years before the raid:

The books belonged to the rabbi of Haarlem.  He had brought them to Father more than a year before:  “Just in case I should not be able to care for them–ah–indefinitely.”  He had waved a bit apologetically at the procession of small boys behind him, each staggering under the weight of several huge volumes.  “My little hobby.  Book collecting.  And yet, old friend, books do not age as you and I do.  They will speak still when we are gone, to generations we will never see.  Yes, the books must survive.”  — Ibid, pg. 89-90



Gestapo Raid

The raid on Casper ten Boom’s house occurred on the morning of February 28, 1944.  Corrie had been sick in bed for two days.  It all happened pretty quickly, as she described in her book, The Hiding Place.

In my fevered dream a buzzer kept ringing.  On and on it went. Why wouldn’t it stop? Feet were running, voices whispering.  “Hurry!  Hurry!”

I sat bolt upright.  People were running past my bed.  I turned just in time to see Thea’s heels disappear through the low door.  Meta was behind her, then Henk.  But–I hadn’t planned for a drill for today!  Who in the world–unless–unless it wasn’t a drill.  Eusie dashed past me, white-faced, his pipe rattling in the ashtray that he carried in shaking hands.  And at last it penetrated my numbed brain that the emergency had come.  One, two, three people already in the secret room; four as Eusie’s black shoes and scarlet socks disappeared.  But Mary–where was Mary?  The old woman appeared in the bedroom door, mouth open, gasping for air.  I sprang from my bed and half-pulled, half-shoved her across the room.

I was sliding the secret panel down behind her when a slim white-haired man burst into the room.  I recognized him from Pickwick’s, someone high in the national Resistance.  I’d had no idea he was in the house.  He dived after Mary…The man’s legs vanished and I dropped the panel down and leapt back into bed.  Below I heard doors slamming, heavy footsteps on the stairs.  But it was another sound that turned my blood to water:  the strangling, grating rasp of Mary’s breathing.  “Lord Jesus!” I prayed.  “You have the power to heal!  Heal Mary now!”

And then my eye fell on the briefcase, stuffed with names and addresses.  I snatched it up, yanked up the sliding door again, flung the case inside, shoved the door down, and pushed my prison bag up against it.  I had just reached the bed again when the bedroom door flew open.

“What’s your name?”  I sat up slowly and–I hoped–sleepily.  “What?”  “Your name!”  “Cornelia ten Boom.”  [she ended up leaving the bag she’d prepared in case she was ever taken to prison, because removing it from its place would’ve called attention to the sliding door]

The man behind me gave me a little push and I hurried on down the stairs to the dining room.  Father, Betsie, and Toos were sitting on chairs pulled back against the wall.  Beside them sat three underground workers who must have arrived since I had gone upstairs.  — The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom, pg. 141-143

The interrogation in their dining room was rough.  They asked where they were hiding the Jews and where they were hiding ration cards.  They struck her hard across the face, many times, until she was losing consciousness and cried out, “Lord Jesus, protect me!”  He said to her, “If you say that name again I’ll kill you!”

They were eventually arrested when the Gestapo around the hidden ration cards.  However, they never found the Hiding Place.  Corrie shared a sad moment that happened when they were ordered out of their home:

Father took his tall hat from the wall peg.  Outside the dining room door, he paused to pull up the weights on the old Frisian clock.  “We mustn’t let the clock run down,” he said.  Corrie thought, “Father!  Did you really think we would be back home when next the chain ran out?”  — Ibid, pg. 147

They were marched through the alley and along the street to the police station.  People from previous arrests were sitting or lying about in the holding room.  35 people had been arrested in connection with the Ten Boom’s secret activities.  But there many other people, as well, being held in a gymnasium.

…a group had gathered around Father for evening prayers.  Every day of my life had ended like this:  that deep steady voice, that sure and eager confiding of all of us to the care of God.  The Bible lay at home on its shelf, but much of it was stored in his heart.  His blue eyes seemed to be seeing beyond the locked and crowded room, beyond Haarlem, beyond earth itself, as he quoted from memory:  “Thou art my hiding place and my shield:  I hope in thy word…Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe…”  — Ibid, pg. 149

Then later, she explained:

In the Smedestraat a wall of people pressed against police barricades set across the street.  As Betsie and I stepped out with Father between us, a murmur of horror greeted the sight of “Harrlem’s Grand Old Man” being led to prison.  In the front of the door stood a green city bus with soldiers occupying the rear seats.  People were climbing aboard while friends and relatives in the crowd wept or simply stared.  Betsie and I gripped Father’s arms to start down the steps…[we] squeezed into a double seat near the front…The bus shuddered and started up.  Police cleared a path and we inched forward.  I gazed hungrily out the window, holding onto Haarlem with my eyes.  Now we were crossing the Grote Markt, the walls of the great cathedral glowing a thousand shades of gray in the crystal light.  In a strange way it seemed to me that I had lived through this moment before.  Then I recalled.  The vision.  The night of the invasion.  I had seen it all.  Willem, Nollie, Pickwick, Peter–all of us here–drawn against our wills across this square.  It had all been in the dream–all of us leaving Haarlem, unable to turn back.  Going where?  — Ibid, pg. 149-150

A few days later, in prison, Corrie received a letter from Nollie, who had been released, and happened to notice that the address was written in a way that slanted up towards the stamp.  Removing the stamp, she saw a wonderful message:

All the watches in your closet are safe (“watch” was the secret password for their Jews in hiding).  Safe.  Then–then Eusie, and Henk, and Mary, and–they’d gotten out of the secret room!  They’d escaped!  They were free!  I burst into racking sobs…  — Ibid, pg. 168

As it turned out, the hidden Jews had spent 2 1/2 days in the hiding place with only a few crackers and no water or light.  They didn’t know whether it was safe to come out or not (it wasn’t, for the Gestapo were picking up more workers in the days following the raid). Finally, when the Gestapo left, some local police who were sympathetic with the cause came to release the six, where they quietly slipped out into the dark, looking for another place to hide.  All escaped to safety except Mary.