Synopsis

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 348

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...

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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.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1090

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 them get counterfeit ration cards and construct a secret hiding place in the labyrinthine upper reaches of the Beje.

As the number of Jews taking refuge in the Beje grows, the Ten Boom establishment unwittingly becomes an underground headquarters. Sustained by Corrie's efficiency and united by Betsie's tireless enthusiasm and hospitality, the Jews living there become a community with their host family. Always, though, they are aware of the dangers they face, and regular drills are held so that at a moment's notice, they are able to quickly retreat into the secret room, leaving no evidence of their presence in the house behind. Despite their precautions, however, in February of 1944, the Beje is raided. Although the Gestapo are unable to find the secret room and its inhabitants, they arrest Corrie, Betsie, Willem, Nollie, Nollie's son Peter, and Father, taking them to Scheveningen, the Gestapo headquarters in Holland's capital. The Gestapo chief, in deference to Father's age, offers to let him go if he "won't cause any more trouble," but Father, with utmost dignity, replies, "If I go home today...tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks."

The Ten Booms are kept in separate cells at the prison in Scheveningen. Corrie, who is ill, is placed in solitary confinement without explanation. Almost three months later, in May, Corrie manages to learn that, except for Betsie, her family members have been released. Her beloved father, Casper Ten Boom, however, is dead.

After another month at Scheveningen, Corrie is called before the prison commander, Lieutenant Rahms, for a hearing. Having prayed for God's guidance and protection, Corrie speaks truthfully, and the Lieutenant is amazed that her fidelity and conviction remain as strong as ever, despite all she has endured. A few weeks later, in the confusion of the counter-invasion which has finally come to Holland, Corrie, Betsie, and the other inmates of Scheveningen are transported to a concentration camp for political prisoners near Vught.

Conditions at Vught are even more brutal than those at Scheveningen. The guards are cold and sadistic, but Betsie, with indefatigable optimism, sees the situation as an opportunity to bear witness to their Christian faith, in the belief that "if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love." Betsie, who has always been frail, is put to work sewing uniforms, while Corrie is assigned a job in the "factory." In the evenings, using a small cloth Bible they have managed to secure, the sisters conduct prayer gatherings for their fellow prisoners in the barracks. September comes, and Allied forces are rumored to be approaching. Panic ensues, resulting in the execution of more than seven hundred male prisoners by their German captors, while the women are driven on a brutal march to awaiting freight trains in which they are transported to the notorious camp at Ravensbruck, in the heart of Germany.

Betsie's tenuous health deteriorates in the inhuman environs at Ravensbruck. As her strength diminishes, however, her positive spirit shines even more brightly. Corrie is awed at her sister's unshakable optimism and piety, and shamed by her own feelings of anger and bitterness. The sisters continue their practice of sharing scripture with the other captives, using the Bible which they have miraculously been able to keep through countless searches. During the bitter winter, Betsie dies, and when Corrie sees her face in death, she is stunned to discover her sister's youth and beauty restored in an attitude of utter tranquility. A short time later, Corrie is inexplicably discharged, and makes her way back to Holland.

Corrie devotes the remainder of her life to fulfilling Betsie's visions. She establishes in Holland a home with flower-filled boxes by every window, "where those who (have) been hurt could learn to live again unafraid," and spreads the word of their experiences around the world in witness to God's faithfulness even during the harshest of times.

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