The Hiding Place

by Corrie ten Boom

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The central theme in this book about the horrors of the Holocaust is, paradoxically, responding in faith. The entire experience of the Ten Boom family comes to pass because of their unwavering dedication in living God's will for them, as they see it. Their response to the hellish events of their times is straightforward and unquestioned; they open their home to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution for the simple reason that they are fellow human beings in need of assistance, they endure the unspeakable consequences of their deeds by seeking God's help in bearing their burdens, and they strive to overcome their human tendencies towards bitterness and anger in order to forgive the perpetrators of the most heinous of crimes in imitation of their Savior.

The Ten Booms' response to circumstances during World War II is simply an extension of the manner in which they have always approached life. In a spirit of loving kindness, they have always held the doors of the Beje open to the needy, long before the occupation of Holland. When their own family members no longer filled up all the rooms, a series of foster children had found a home there. When they too had grown up and gone away, Corrie and Betsie continued to minister to the least of God's children in the persons of the disabled and developmentally handicapped. Familiar with the generous hospitality of the Ten Booms, frantic Jews with no other recourse begin to appear at their door during the occupation, and the family responds as they always have, with open arms for anyone in need, regardless of the consequences.

When the inevitable backlash of acting upon their beliefs finally does arrive, the Ten Booms continue to behave in accordance with God's will for them. In deference to his age, Casper Ten Boom is offered leniency when the family is arrested, if only he will promise to cease his activities in harboring Jews, but he remains steadfast in his beliefs, and dies after having been imprisoned for only ten days. In their ordeal beginning in the prison at Scheveningen and ending in the notorious concentration camp at Ravensbruck, Corrie and Betsie continue to live according to the values which have always guided their lives: ministering to those in need and sharing sacred scripture. They are unmindful of their own suffering and confident that God will give them the strength to carry their burdens. In Betsie's case in particular, as her health deteriorates and death is not far away, "the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seem(s) to...(vanish)." Her life takes on an ethereal quality, as, in her complete devotion to things not of this world, she seems, despite the utter squalor of her surroundings, to be capable of experiencing something of the joys of heaven even while she still survives on earth.

A final theme related to the faithful response of the Ten Booms is the willingness to forgive. Despite the atrocities committed by the Nazis, both against the Jewish population of Holland and the Ten Booms themselves, the family eschews bitterness completely in favor of a Christ-like attitude of understanding and forgiveness. Corrie in particular struggles to overcome the human tendency to rage and anger at what is happening, but ultimately finds the strength to forgive even those who have wronged her and Betsie so deeply, including the nurse who had been so cruel to Betsie in her final days, and the SS officer before whom they both had been forced to parade in humiliating nakedness. It had been Betsie's dream that after the war, places could be found where those who had been so hurt by what had happened might find healing. In the years...

(This entire section contains 703 words.)

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between the end of the war and her own death in 1983, Corrie Ten Boom worked tirelessly to extend her sister's vision of reconciliation and harmony, spreading the word of their experiences, establishing a home in Holland to care for victims of the war, and even developing facilities both in Holland and in Germany to shelter those who had once been the enemy.