The Hiding Place

by Corrie ten Boom

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The most amazing attribute of Corrie Ten Boom, the author, central character, and narrator of The Hiding Place, is her complete ordinariness. Born the youngest of four children in the late 1890s, Corrie is middle-aged and unmarried in the years before the second world war. Feisty and intelligent, her persona is firmly grounded in her Christian beliefs. She has a remarkable propensity for taking things as they come, no matter how disagreeable, and responding as needed, firm in the knowledge that the ultimate result rests in the hands of an omnipotent God.

Corrie is deeply human, humbly seeking the advice of those more knowledgeable when there are things she does not understand. When Karel, the one love of her life, throws her aside for another, her father counsels her to ask God to teach her to love the boy with a perfect love that asks nothing in return. In following this directive, Corrie finds solace, even though she knows Karel is forever out of reach, and that for her, there will never be another. Corrie never seeks to be a heroic figure as an active participant in the underground, but when circumstance requires it, she responds in love, doing what needs to be done. Gifted with an astute business sense, she allows her talents to be used to save others, following the lead of more experienced individuals to establish connections and organize, efficiently managing to secure hundreds of extra ration cards and other necessities to minister to those in her family's care. When the inevitable consequences of her actions result in dehumanizing incarceration, first in Holland and ultimately in the notoriously barbaric concentration camp at Ravensbruck, Corrie continues to struggle on, one day at a time, outwitting the system to smuggle in a small Bible and vitamins, ever on guard for the well-being of her sister Betsie and the others imprisoned with them.

Corrie derides herself at times for harboring feelings of anger and bitterness towards the unspeakably cruel people and situations she encounters throughout her ordeal. She strives to live up to her creed, but must be constantly vigilant to meet the standards she has resolved to uphold despite her intensely passionate nature. Though she struggles inwardly, her closeness to God is evident to others and influences their lives, as is illustrated by the Gestapo Lieutanant at Scheveningen, who is so amazed at the tranquility she maintains even though her earthly fate rests on the caprices of his own tortured soul. When she is released from Ravensbruck and the war finally comes to an end, Corrie is overcome with restlessness, and discovers that she is unable to slip back into her former life at the Beje. Following the urgings of her heart, she devotes the remainder of her life to sharing the story of God's faithfulness through the darkest of days, so that it might be an inspiration to others.

Born with pernicious anemia, Betsie Ten Boom is physically frail, but her spirit is indomitable. Seven years older than Corrie, she is like a second mother when they are growing up, patiently trying to instill in her younger sibling a sense of decorum, and performing small tasks of kindness for her, such as altering her clothes to fit nicely. Unlike Corrie, Betsie has little interest in the practical side of the family business, but revels in serving and interacting with customers. Together, the two sisters complement each other, keeping the little watch shop running smoothly in the years before the war.

Betsie, who like Corrie never marries, has a great love of beauty and the uncanny ability to make any environment a welcoming...

(This entire section contains 1182 words.)

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place. At the Beje, she plants flowers in the window boxes, even though the crowded buildings surrounding the little house block the sunlight and prevent the blooms from thriving. When the Ten Boom home is crowded with refugees, she promotes a sense of belonging among the frightened exiles, caring for their needs and organizing nightly classes and entertainments so that they can get to know each other and feel they are important and contributing members of a family. Even in the harsh confines of her prison cell at Scheveningen, Betsie's loving touch is evident; the tiny space is kept impeccably clean, the women's meager belongings neatly organized, and their daily routine structured around prayers and the study of scripture.

Betsie possesses faith that truly surpasses human understanding. She does not seek suffering, but when it comes to her, she accepts it with gratitude that she should be chosen to share in the sacrifice of her Savior. She has an incredible ability to see the positive in the bleakest of situations, even expressing appreciation for the fleas that infest the dormitory at Ravensbruck because they keep away the guards, allowing the prisoners to participate in prayer gatherings unmolested. Betsie's heart breaks each time she is witness to cruelty, not only for the victim, but for the perpetrator as well, that his soul is so tormented as to cause him to act so viciously. Near the end of her life, when she is mocked and beaten because she is too frail to work, she endures the abuse without complaint, pleading with her furious sister Corrie to do the same, and to focus only on their Redeemer. Weak in body but powerful in faith, Betsie's spirit lives on long after her death.

The unshakable faith that both Corrie and Betsie possess is clearly instilled in them by Casper Ten Boom, a wise and loving father through whose example they are introduced to a just but benevolent God. Corrie remembers being terrified of starting school as a child, and being taken gently but firmly in hand by Father, who walks her to school personally on her first day. On the beloved trips she takes with him to Amsterdam by train over the years, Father holds her ticket for her until she is ready to take responsibility for it herself. In this way, she learns to understand that her Heavenly Father will never give her trials beyond her capability to handle; in His infinite wisdom, He will wait until her faith is strong enough to endure, or, like a loving parent, help her carry the burden Himself.

Although he is a formidable patriarch and leader, Casper Ten Boom maintains an otherworldly ingenuousness, and is, throughout his life, "incapable of practicing deceit or even recognizing it." A dedicated member of the Dutch Reformed Church, he sees no problem in risking his life to save the Jews who come to him for help, declaring it "an honor to give (his) life for God's ancient people." With unqualified acceptance, he genially discusses scripture with Eusie, a cantor from the synagogue in Amsterdam who has sought shelter at the Beje, and humbly requests him to lead the family in worship. Casper Ten Boom's wholehearted acceptance of every individual as a child of God provides the basis for his children's attitudes of acceptance of all people, good and bad, no matter their background or creed.

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