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!

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Ravensbruck

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.

“Ravensbruck!”

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

 

Prison

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.

The Hiding Place

The hidden room that “Mr. Smit” built into Casper ten Boom’s house in Haarlem was in Corrie’s bedroom, the highest one in the house.  It seemed that all the underground workers were known as “Mr Smit!”  Corrie described their work in this way:

Over the next few days he and his workmen were in and out of our house constantly.  They never knocked.  At each visit each man carried in something.  Tools in a folded newspaper.  A few bricks in a briefcase…After the wall was up, the plasterer came, then the carpenter, finally the painter.  Six days after he had begun, Mr. Smit called Father, Betsie, and me to see.  We stood in the doorway and gaped.  The smell of fresh paint was everywhere.  But surely nothing in this room was newly painted!  All four walls had that streaked and grimy look that old rooms got in coal-burning Haarlem.  The ancient molding ran unbroken around the ceiling, chipped and peeling here and there, obviously undisturbed for a hundred and fifty years.  Old water stains streaked the back wall, a wall that even I who had lived half a century in this room, could scarcely believe was not the original, but set back a precious two-and-a-half feet from the true wall of the building.  Built-in bookshelves ran along this false wall, old, sagging shelves whose blistered wood bore the same water stains as the wall behind them.  Down in the far lefthand corner, beneath the bottom shelf, a sliding panel, two feet high and two wide, opened into the secret room.  Mr. Smit stooped and silently pulled this panel up.  On hands and knees Betsie and I crawled into the narrow room behind it.  Once inside we could stand up, sit, or even stretch out one at a time on the single mattress.  A concealed vent, cunningly let into the real wall, allowed air to enter from outside.  — Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 103

As you can see in the photos below, the hiding place now has a big hole cut out of the wall, so that visitors can see into the hidden space without having to crawl through the 2′ x 2′ space.  But some still choose to crawl though the original opening.  We did.

A photo on the wall showed an original drill with two Jewish women in 1943.

Once inside, there was room for 6-7 people to stand.

It was really an honor to stand in this very space and reflect on all that had occurred here, such as the quotes from Corrie below.

[Mr.] Leendert did the electrical work that weekend.  He installed a buzzer near the top of the stairs–loud enough to be heard all over the house but not outside.  Then he placed buttons to sound the buzzer at every vantage point where trouble might first be spotted…We were ready for our first trial run…the purpose of the drills was to see how rapidly people could reach the room at any hour of the day or night without prior notice.  A tall sallow-faced young man arrived from Pickwick one morning to teach me how to conduct the drills.  “Smit!”  Father exclaimed when the man introduced himself.  “Truly it’s most astonishing!  We’ve had one Smit after another here lately…”  [Mr. Smit] paused in a bedroom door.  “If the raid comes at night they must not only take their sheets and blankets but get the mattress turned.  That’s the S.D’s favorite trick–feeling for a warm spot on a bed…”  There were eleven of us at the table that day, including a Jewish lady who had arrived the night before and a Gentile woman and her small daughter, members of our underground…Mr. Smit leaned back in his chair and pushed the button below the window….People sprang to their feet, snatching up glasses and plates, scrambling for the stairs…Cries of “Faster!” “Not so loud!” and “You’re spilling it!” reached us as Father, Betsie, and I hastily rearranged table and chairs to look like a lunch for three in progress…At last we were seated again and silence reigned upstairs.  The whole process had taken four minutes.  A little later we were all gathered again around the dining room table.  Mr. Smit set out before him the incriminating evidence he had found:  two spoons and a piece of carrot on the stairs, pipe ashes in an “unoccupied” bedroom…The next night I sounded the alarm again and this time we shaved a minute thirty-three seconds off our run.  By our fifth trial we were down to two minutes.  –Ibid, pg. 120-122

Ten Boom House

It’s pretty special to find yourself sitting in Corrie ten Boom’s family home in Haarlem, Netherlands.  Chris and I didn’t have to wait in line very long, and there were nice people to talk with from various parts of the world.

This lady had read many of Corrie’s books, like I had, and we knew we had a bond that transcends most relationships between strangers.  Tony was also working for Air Traffic Control in one of the airports Chris was flying to often as a commercial pilot, so I figured she was one of the special people God used to keep him safe.  She had come all the way to Amsterdam, specifically to see “The Hiding Place,” as the home is called (Corrie referred to it as “The Beje”).

This is the very room where all the music was performed and sung, where families and friends prayed together, where they listened to the radio, and where many Jews found refuge from the holocaust.  In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie shared memories from earlier years in this room:

Indeed it was at the Beje that we first discovered young Peter’s musical gift.  It happened around our radio.  We had first heard this modern wonder at a friend’s house.  “A whole orchestra,” we kept repeating to each other–somehow that seemed especially difficult to produce inside a box….Every Sunday Betsie would scour the papers, British, French, and Germany as well as our own, since the radio brought in stations from all over Europe, and plan the week’s program of concerts and recitals.

It was one Sunday afternoon when Nollie and her family were visiting that Peter suddenly spoke up in the middle of a Brahms concerto.  “It’s funny they put a bad piano on the radio.”  “Shhh,” said Nollie, but “What do you mean, Peter?” asked Father.  “One of the notes is wrong.”  The rest of us exchanged glances:  what could an eight-year-old know?  But Father led the boy to Tante Jan’s old upright.  “Which note, Peter?”  Peter struck the keys up the scale till he reached B above middle C.  “This one,” he said.  And then everyone in the room heard it too:  The B on the concert grand was flat.  I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting beside Peter on the piano bench, giving him simple musical quizzes, uncovering a phenomenal musical memory and perfect pitch.  –Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 71-72

Corrie also told an interesting story about this room during the war:

Christmas 1943 was approaching.  The light snow that had fallen was the only festive quality of the season.  Every family, it seemed, had someone in jail, in a work camp, or in hiding.  For once the religious side of the holidays was uppermost in every mind.

At the Beje, we had not only Christmas to celebrate but also Hanukkah, the Jewish “Festival of Lights.”  Betsie found a Hanukkah candle stand among the treasures stored with us behind the dining room cupboard and set it up on the upright piano.  Each night we lighted one more candle as Eusie read the story of the Maccabees.  Then we would sing, haunting, melancholy desert music.  We were all very Jewish those evenings.

About the fifth night of the Festival, as we were gathered round the piano, the doorbell in the alley rang.  I opened it to find Mrs. Beukers, wife of the optician next door, standing in the snow.  Mrs. Beukers was as round and placid as her husband was thin and worried, but tonight her plump face was twisted with anxiety.

“Do you think,” she whispered, “your Jews could sing a little more softly?  We can hear them right through the walls and–well, there are all kinds of people on this street…” — Ibid, pg. 134-135

They certain began to be more careful in their singing after that.  There were many wonderful photos of the family on the walls.

This is the dining room, where so many people shared meals, prayers and information.  It’s currently being used as a book shop and souvenir room.

 

It was here that the Alpina clock advertisement was placed in the window to let the underground know it was safe to enter.

When the home was raided, someone knocked it down onto the ground, but the Gestapo placed it back in the window, and in so doing, managed to captured 30 people in the raid over a couple of days, including Corrie and four other family members.

They had put high, dark curtains over these windows so people on the street could not see in.  But one time a man was seen washing the windows from a ladder.  Frightened, all the people around the table broke into a round of “Happy Birthday,” in case he was spying on them.  They never knew for sure, but realized the danger they were in for keeping Jews in the home.  Soon, the underground workers sent a “Mr. Smit” to build a hiding place in the home, which I’ll share about in the next post.

Ten Boom Watch Shop

We were not able to purchase tickets ahead of time to tour the Ten Boom “Hiding Place,” so arrived plenty early to stand in line.  It’s really surreal to find yourself standing right next to the shop.

Casper ten Boom taught his daughter, Corrie, the intricacies of watch repair.  She said:

Father eagerly took on the job of teaching me.  I eventually learned the moving and stationary parts, the chemistry of oils and solutions, tool and grindwhuel and magnifying techniques.  But Father’s patience, his almost mystic rapport with the harmonies of watchworks, these were not things that could be taught.  Wristwatches had become fashionable and I enrolled in a school that specialized in this kind of work.  Three years after Mama’s death, I became the first licensed woman watchmaker in Holland.  And so was established the pattern our lives were to follow for over twenty years.  When Father had put the Bible back on its shelf after breakfast, he and I would go down the stairs to the shop while Betsie stirred the soup pot…There was a constant procession through this little back room.  Sometimes it was a customer; most often it was simply a visitor–from a laborer with wooden klompen on his feet to a fleet owner–all bringing their problems to Father.  Quite unabashedly, in the sight of customers in the front room and the employees working with us, he would bow his head and pray for an answer.  He prayed over the work, too…I would hear him say:  “Lord, You turn the wheels of the galaxies.  You know what makes the planets spin and You know what makes this watch run…”  Through the years he took his stopped watches to “the One who set the atoms dancing,” or “who keeps the great currents circling through the sea.”  –Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 69-70

When Holland was invaded by the Nazis, the shop was busier than ever:

For five days Holland held out against the invader.  We kept the shop open, not because anyone was interested in watches, but because people wanted to see Father.  Some wanted him to pray for husbands and sons stationed at the borders of the country.  Others, it seemed to me, came just to see him sitting there behind his workbench as he had for sixty years and to hear in the ticking clocks a world of order and reason.  –Ibid, pg. 80

In this group of photos in the house you can see Casper ten Boom, beloved father of Corrie, Betsie, Nollie and Willem (their mother, Cornelia, had passed away in 1921).  He was a devout and generous Christian who opened his heart and home to all who passed his way.  They took in dozens of foster children through the years.  In addition, Willem, Casper’s father, had started a weekly prayer group here in 1844 to pray for Jews and for the peace of Jerusalem; this prayer group continues to this day.  100 years later their home would become a hiding place for Jews.  When the Nazis began requiring all Jews to wear the yellow Star of David, Casper voluntarily wore one, too.  Corrie held worship services for disabled children for twenty years.  They strongly believed that all people were equal before God.

It was not long for the home to become a place of refuge for Jews during the holocaust; in fact, over 800 people came through this home, as a way station to other points, and for others it was a long-term home of refuge.  The small “Alpina” advertisement sign was placed in the widow to tell underground workers when it was safe to enter.

Here we were, about to enter the same door in the alleyway.  Amazing.

Corrie described what it was like in those early days of occupation:

The true horror of occupation came over us only slowly.  During the first year of German rule, there were only minor attacks on Jews in Holland.  A rock through the window of a Jewish-owned store.  An ugly word scrawled on the wall of a synagogue.  It was as though they were trying us, testing the temper of the country.  How many Dutchmen would go along with them?  And the answer, to our shame, was many…One day as Father and I were returning from our walk we found the Grote Markt cordoned off by a double ring of police and soldiers.  A truck was parked in front of the fish mart; into the back were climbing men, women, and children, all wearing the yellow star.  There was no reason we could see why this particular place at this particular time had been chosen.  “Father!  Those poor people!”  I cried.  The police line opened, the truck moved through.  We watched till it turned the corner.  “Those poor people,” Father echoed.  But to my surprise I saw that he was looking at the soldiers now forming into ranks to march away.  “I pity the poor Germans, Corrie.  They have touched the apple of God’s eye.”  We talked often, Father, Betsie, and I, about what we could do if a chance should come to help some of our Jewish friends.  –Ibid, pg. 84-85