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