What pest did Betsie thank God for in The Hiding Place?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Betsie gives thanks to God for the fleas.

Corrie and Betsie have just arrived at Ravensbruck. They are taken to their "permanent quarters," a huge dormitory more squalid and filthy than anywhere they have ever been before.  The dormitories are crowded with "great square piers stacked three high." On these platforms, hundreds of women must scramble to find a place to sleep--on hard wooden planks and with no space to even sit up.  The smell of obviously "backed-up plumbing" pervades the room, and the layer of straw which covers the platforms is "soiled and rancid."  Worst of all, the whole place is crawling with fleas.

Corrie is horrified at the conditions in their sleeping quarters, but Betsie, with unshakable faith, prays for the strength and wisdom to be able to live in such a place.  She remembers a verse in the Bible in which St. Paul says, "give thanks in all circumstances," and together with Corrie, she begins to do just that.  Betsie leads Corrie to join her in thanking the Lord for the fact that they have been assigned to Ravensbruck together, and that, since they have not had to undergo inspection before entering their dormitory, they still have their precious Bible.  And finally, Betsie thanks God for the fleas.

Little by little, Betsie and Corrie establish a community of sorts in their squalid dormitory.  They hold informal worship services daily at the rear of the room, and read the Bible together, with the inmates translating the sacred words into many languages so that everyone may understand.  Oddly, although there are "guards or camp police always present" everywhere else in the camp, there is "almost no supervision at all" in the dormitory, and so the women are able to conduct their worship services and Bible reading unmolested.  Betsie later discovers why they have been accorded this unusual freedom.  It seems that none of the guards or police are willing to step through the door of the large building--"because of the fleas" (Chapters 13-14).

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