Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place is a staple of Holocaust literature and is often included with such classics as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Elie Wiesel's Night. Published in 1971, the narrative recounts Corrie's experiences prior to and during World War II.
When Holland fell to the Germans in 1940 and the Nazis occupied the country, conditions for the Jewish population became increasingly more oppressive. In the Dutch city of Haarlem, the Ten Booms were an established and well-respected family, having operated a watch shop from their home, the Beje, for over a hundred years. Casper Ten Boom, the family patriarch, was a dedicated member of the Dutch Reformed Church and a man of great faith with an indomitable sense of Christian charity. He and his family opened the doors of their home "to any man in need who knock[ed]." With its idiosyncratic construction, the Beje provided a perfect hiding place for countless desperate refugees, and the Ten Booms soon found themselves deeply involved with an underground devoted to the cause of saving Holland's Jews from Hitler's "Final Solution." The clandestine activities at the Beje were eventually discovered by the Nazis. Corrie, her father, brother Willem, and sister Betsie were seized and incarcerated. Casper Ten Boom died in prison; Willem was released, and Corrie and Betsie were sent on to the notorious concentration camp at Ravensbruck. With an unshakable optimism and faith, Corrie and Betsie brought the comforting Word of God to the women with in the nightmarish camps. Betsie died at Ravensbruck, but Corrie survived.
Born in 1892, Corrie Ten Boom was in her fifties when the pivotal events of her life took place. After her release from Ravensbruck in early 1945 due to a clerical error, she made it her life's mission to tell the world what went on during that infamous period in history, and to give testimony that love and goodness can prevail in even the darkest hell. Corrie traveled the world to spread her message of faith and endurance well into her eighties. She died in 1983 at the age of ninety-one.
The Ten Boom family has long been established in the Dutch city of Haarlem during the years prior to World War II. The watch shop which they have operated for over a hundred years is a fixture on the Barteljorisstraat, and the family patriarch, Casper Ten Boom, is so well-respected that he has earned the affectionate title, "Haarlem's Grand Old Man." The family business occupies the ground floor of the Beje, the Ten Boom home. The building itself is a unique construction: two narrow dwellings of three stories each, joined together with a twisting, corkscrew staircase squeezed in-between. At one time, the Beje had been filled with people, but Mama and the three aunts have died, and Nollie and Willem have started families of their own and moved away. Only Corrie and Betsie, middle-aged and unmarried, still live with Father, but under his gentle guidance, the Beje remains filled with happiness and love.
In the late 1930s, life goes on as usual in Haarlem, even though its eastern neighbor Germany is becoming increasingly belligerent. When Germany attacks in 1940, Holland is quickly overwhelmed and surrenders, and Hitler's Nazis occupy the country. The horror of the country's situation slowly becomes evident. Restrictions against Jews are enacted insidiously, and after a year, it is clear that the Germans' intentions towards them are beyond abominable.
Guided by their religious faith, Corrie, Father, and Betsie often discuss what they would do if their Jewish friends should ever need their help. Although they are aware that Willem is active in finding safe hiding places for Jewish acquaintances, they themselves never consciously set out to be part of the underground movement. When German soldiers invade the shop of Mr. Weil, a Jewish neighbor across the street, however, their course of action is clear. Responding in Christian charity, they offer him shelter in their home, and with the help of Willem, eventually spirit him away to safety in the country.
Conditions in Holland continue to deteriorate under Nazi occupation. Two years pass, and the situation for the Jewish population is desperate. Word of the Ten Booms' kindness towards Mr. Weil has spread, and one by one, Jews with nowhere else to go begin to appear at the door of the Beje. Father accepts them all, telling them, "In this household...God's people are always welcome." Located only half a block from the police headquarters, the dwelling is not a safe place for refugees to stay, but placement in the country has become increasingly difficult. Guided by Willem (who is under suspicion by the Gestapo) to secure their own resources, Corrie establishes contact with individuals who help...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)