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Last Updated on November 2, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1420

Corrie (Cornelia) ten Boom first published her heart-wrenching memoir, A Prisoner and Yet . . . , in 1954. John and Elizabeth Sherrill, editors of Guideposts , a religious magazine, read the book, heard Corrie recount her experiences in Nazi concentration camps, and assisted her in writing the Christian spiritual...

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Corrie (Cornelia) ten Boom first published her heart-wrenching memoir, A Prisoner and Yet . . . , in 1954. John and Elizabeth Sherrill, editors of Guideposts, a religious magazine, read the book, heard Corrie recount her experiences in Nazi concentration camps, and assisted her in writing the Christian spiritual classic The Hiding Place, knowing that Corrie had a bigger story to tell. The “hiding place” refers to two places: a Bible passage calling on God as a protector and shield from danger, and the Ten Booms’ secret room, where Jews were hidden from the Nazis.

Corrie begins her autobiography with the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary, in 1937, of the Ten Booms’ watch shop and home at 19 Barteljorisstraat, Haarlem, Holland, known as the Beje. Corrie, the first female watchmaker in Holland, is single and lives above the shop with her older, attractive sister, Betsie, also unmarried, and their father, Casper. Brother Willem’s and sister Nollie’s families live nearby. Casper is a devout Christian who twice daily prays and reads the Bible. He loves and respects the Jewish people, considering them to be God’s chosen people. The women of the Ten Boom family took care of German orphans during World War I and have cared for Haarlem’s sick and poor. Their home is a virtual social service agency, where Jews are welcomed and their holidays celebrated. With Adolf Hitler’s rise to power as German chancellor, anti-Semitism is increasing in Germany, and the nursing home in Hilversum that is run by Willem ten Boom, a Dutch Reformed minister, is overflowing with Jewish refugees. German Jewish suppliers of watchmaking parts are disappearing.

During World War II, the Germans invade Holland and harass Jews. Everybody must have ration cards to buy food. In November, 1941, German soldiers rob Corrie’s neighbor’s store and throw the neighbor into the street. At night, Corrie’s nephew takes the neighbor into hiding. Casper declares that it is an honor to risk one’s life to save Jews. Consequently, Jews, resistance workers, and men trying to avoid Nazi forced labor come to the Ten Booms for help. Resistance workers build a tiny, secret room in Corrie’s third-floor bedroom and install an alarm system. Fearful of Gestapo raids, the Ten Booms conduct drills to get Jews to the hiding place. Corrie obtains food cards and safe hiding places for Jews outside the Beje from people whom her family has previously helped, and she coordinates a network of underground workers.

On February 28, 1944, a Dutchman comes asking for help. Corrie agrees to help him, and the Nazis raid the Beje. The Ten Booms’ guests who are in the secret room are not caught, but Corrie, Casper, Willem, Nollie, and Betsie are hauled away in a wagon drawn by black horses. They are interrogated and sent to Scheveningen, a Dutch prison. Ten days later, Casper dies. All the Ten Booms but Betsie and Corrie are released. A nurse gives Corrie a copy of the Gospels, which help sustain her spirit while she is being held in solitary confinement. Then, Betsie and Corrie are sent to Ravensbrück, one of the worst death camps. Corrie is able to smuggle her Bible and vitamin drops into Ravensbrück. Betsie’s unfailing trust in Jesus and the sisters’ hope that, one day, their story of joy in suffering will turn people to Jesus sustain them. Saintly Betsie consistently insists that Corrie be thankful for their trials and tribulations and pray for their abusers and forgive them. In the midst of all the horrors of the camp, God provides for Corrie and Betsie. They share the vitamin drops, and miraculously the bottle does not go dry. The fleas in the barracks keep the guards from confiscating their Bible. The prisoners suffer humiliation, overwork, freezing cold, starvation, beatings, the leering guards’ eyes when they shower, lack of space and sanitation, odors of burning flesh, black lice, and death; in response, they become belligerent and selfish. The Ten Booms change the women in their barracks through intercessory prayer and Bible readings; they encourage the women to pray for their captors.

Corrie is forced to see her beloved Betsie suffer and finally die, joyfully and peacefully, at age fifty-nine, after revealing three visions and telling Corrie that they will be out of the camp before New Year’s Day. A clerical error leads to Corrie’s release from Ravensbrück, but she cannot leave the camp because she has edema. Hospitalized, she hears Betsie remind her that God’s will is a “hiding place.” Despite her status as a patient and disregarding her swollen feet, Corrie takes bedpans to the other women who are ill. When she finally leaves the camp, all the women her age or older have been killed. Later, at a Berlin train station, a starving Corrie realizes that she was discharged and thus liberated on New Year’s Day, 1945, just as Betsie had envisioned. After an exhausting trip to Holland and care at a Dutch hospital, Corrie reunites with her family. Her joy is tempered with sadness, however: Willem is dying from a crippling spinal tuberculosis contracted in Scheveningen.

Now age fifty-three, Corrie is unhappy with watchmaking, and she decides to spend the rest of her life fulfilling Betsie’s visions. The Beje eventually becomes a home for the healing of Holland’s most hated people, the Dutch people who collaborated with the Nazis. Betsie’s first vision comes to fruition when a wealthy Dutch woman gives Corrie a mansion at Bloemendaal, which Corrie, with the help of volunteers, transforms into a rehabilitation center where she teaches refugees, former prisoners of concentration camps, and people who were in hiding to forgive and love their enemies. Betsie’s second vision becomes a reality when Corrie turns Darmstadt, a former Nazi concentration camp, into a home for the reconciliation and healing of Germans. Corrie fulfills Betsie’s third vision when she travels the world telling audiences that Jesus became the victor in the concentration camps. On a speaking tour, Corrie meets one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards and immediately feels hate for him; she begs God to help her forgive him, and instantly she is able to forgive him. Corrie has never known God’s love so intensely as she does at that moment. She also forgives the man who betrayed her family and other camp personnel she meets.

Ten Boom’s storytelling skills made her a reluctant celebrity who humbly insisted that Jesus, not she, was responsible for her accomplishments. She wrote thirty-two books and remained in demand as a speaker until paralysis stopped her in 1978. She died on April 15, 1983, her birthday, at the age of ninety-one. The proceeds from her books continue to finance missionaries.

The Ten Booms’ Calvinist beliefs in God’s love, the Bible, positive affirmations, charitable acts, and willingness to risk their safety for that of their neighbors fill this story. The Ten Booms’ trust in and love of Jesus is evident throughout the narrative not only in their words but also in their actions. Corrie’s parents set the example for their children, practicing the Golden Rule and passing that belief and practice on to Betsie and Corrie as well as their siblings. As a Christian evangelist, Corrie traveled to more than sixty nations preaching and bringing people to Jesus. She refused donations, preferring to avoid influence, depending totally on God’s goodness and the kindness of strangers for her shelter, food, and daily needs. Corrie’s faith in God never failed her. She not only preached but also lived love and forgiveness, gratitude for trials, and joy in suffering. Her example stands in stark contrast to many in modern society, whose stony indifference to human suffering—whether that of a neighbor or that of an enemy—is humanity’s most fatal disease. Her message is that of Jesus: To forgive one’s enemies is to free the prisoner, you.

The Hiding Place is one of the best-selling true Holocaust stories, a testimony that serves as a warning for future generations not to deny the Holcaust and never to allow such persecution to occur again. Frequently used in schools for teaching students about the Holocaust and character education, it was made into a successful film (released by World Wide Pictures in 1975) and continues to provide hope and inspiration. Corrie ten Boom has been honored in Israel with a tree planted near that of Oskar Schindler, another Holocaust hero, along the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles near Jerusalem.

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