Imagine yourself...a Jew in WWII. Persecuted. Neglected. Hated...for no reason at all. You are searching for a hiding place; a place to protect you from your enemies.
Now, imagine yourself... as an ordinary citizen of Nazi-occupied Haarlem, Holland. A simple clockmaker living with your father and sister. You've seen the suffering of the Jews and you want to make a difference in their lives. You know the price is high for helping them. You could be sent to prison, or even a Nazi concentration camp. But, you are determined to be a hero to them.
|The above photograph is of Corrie and her family taken in 1902, Corrie is on the extreme right. |
Corrie Ten Boom was that clockmaker. She, along with her father, Casper Ten Boom, and sister, Betsie Ten Boom, were one of the thousands of people who took Jews into their home, hid them from the Nazis, and gave them stolen ration cards so that they could buy food and escape to the countryside. She knew the price was high, but she did everything she could to save the lives and families of Jews.
In 1939, the peaceful, neutral country of Holland was attacked by the Germans under Adolph Hitler. Only hours after the Prime Minister's comforting speech about how Holland would never be attacked and there would be no war, the sound of bombs exploding awakened Corrie and Betsie. They both knew it could only mean one thing: War.
The occupation of Haarlem resulted in stricter laws and little freedom. Citizens were not allowed to leave their homes after curfew, which went from 9:00 to 6:00 pm. Holland's national anthem, "Wilhemus," was banned. The Getsapo, a Nazi police organization, would raid people's homes and kidnap young men between the ages of 17 and 30, and force them to work in the army. But, worst of all, the Jews were persecuted beyond belief. They were imprisoned, killed, and sent to extermination camps to die. Not only the Jews, but also anyone that assisted them would suffer. But, the Ten Booms were compassionate and didn't care what anyone else said. They continued to open their doors to the needy--no matter what their race.
Although their hiding place was cleverly hidden behind a false wall in Corrie's room, the Ten Boom family still had to be extremely cautious in security matters. An alarm system was placed in their rooms to inform anyone in the house of danger. Friends would, "break into" their house and pretend to be the Getsapo so that they could practice what they would say (and not say, most importantly!) in case of a raid. Drills were done regularly.
One night, while Corrie was in bed with the flu, the sound of footsteps awakened her. "We didn't plan a drill today," she thought while her head spinned with fever. She soon realized that this was not a drill! The Jews her family had hidden for so long were running from real Nazi police! She watched as each one of them sprinted into the false wall. That is...almost all of them. She heard the sickening sound of wheezing. The oldest Jew in their home, Mary Italle, had asthma and was struggling to make it to the secret room. Once Mary had made it into Corrie's room, Corrie sprang from her bed and helped her make it through the secret panel...only seconds before a Nazi policeman appeared in her room.
The police interrogated the family and many other people who came over to the Ten Boom home to warn them of the danger...a little too late. The police were brutal, especially to Betsie and Corrie. They struck them every time they refused to tell them about their underground work.
Finally, the police loaded everyone in the Ten Boom house into vans headed for the city jail. Soon, they were taken into a large room (a former gymnasium) where several other prisoners sat waiting for their fate. Even the suffering they endured there was minuscule compared to what was soon to come.
Once again, the Ten Booms were loaded onto a van and headed for a prison--Scheveningen. Corrie and Betsie were separated from their father in another part of the prison. Corrie was still sick from the flu, so she was placed in solitary confinement for the majority of her sentence. But, the prison workers didn't even give her an explanation why.
On Hitler's birthday, the prison workers left to go to a party. This was the perfect time for Corrie to learn about her family's condition! She called out Betsie's name. She was still in prison, but relayed this message: "God is good!" Her sister, Nollie: Released! Her brother, Willem: Released! She'd gotten information on all of her loved ones in prison...except her father. Every time she called out his name, no one seemed to know anything about him.
Soon, she received the news. Casper Ten Boom had died. That day, she wrote this on the wall: "Father: Released." Even in her mourning, Corrie knew that her beloved father was in a better place.
Corrie got over her sickness and was soon well enough to attend her first hearing. The hearings were one-on-one and done in little huts. She was placed with Lieutenant Rhams. The Lieutenant tried at first to "butter her up" with kindness that had not ever been shown in prison. But, soon Corrie and Lieutenant Rhams became friends and scarcely discussed her situation. He was more interested in hearing about her family life. She ministered to him. He had many tragedies in his life. "Great darkness," he called it. Through their conversations, both Corrie and the Lieutenant found joy.
But, this joy did not last. Soon, Corrie, Betsie and several other female prisoners were transported to Vught, a concentration camp in Holland. The conditions were terrible, much harsher than that of Scheveningen. The rules were very strict, and if broken, the entire camp would be punished. Sometimes, they would only get half-rations of food. Sometimes, they'd have to stand at attention for long periods of time. Sometimes, individual prisoners would be sent to the bunkers (a locker-sized room where prisoners would stand with their hands tied above their heads).
Vught was filled with hate and violence. But, Corrie and Betsie learned forgiveness in a place where it was sometimes impossible to forgive. Oftentimes, Corrie would hear her sister say "I feel so sorry for them," or "May God forgive them." It only took a moment to realize that Betsie was referring to their enemies. At first, Corrie didn't understand this compassion for the very people that were mistreating them. But, as time went on, faith took the place of fear and Corrie understood.
After a few months in Vught, which seemed like an eternity, Betsie, Corrie and other prisoners were once again transported to another camp. This time, in the land of their fears--Germany.
Four long days after piling into the smelly, suffocating van, the prisoners were taken to Ravensbruck. Ravensbruck was by far the worst of all the prisons and camps that Corrie and Betsie had been to. At least at Vught and Scheveningen, prisoners were called by their names. In Ravensbruck, all you had was a number.
The moment that the weary prisoners arrived in Ravensbruck, prison staff rushed toward them swinging their crops at them. The camp was filled with constant suffering. Every time that they needed to visit the doctor, they needed to take off all their clothes--in front of men. Roll call was at 4:30am, and anyone who arrived late would be beaten.
Each day grew harder for the sisters. But they continued to place their trust in Jesus who in turn gave them the strength they needed to survive unthinkable situations.
In Ravensbruck, Betsie became very ill. Corrie begged one of the prison workers to take her to the hospital, but she refused to do so. Instead, she made her go to the sick-call, which did not help her. During her sickness, Betsie told Corrie of her plans to start a camp for people to find healing from the scars caused by the concentration camp. Corrie listened and planned to make this dream come true...knowing that Betsie would be by her side.
But, a few days later, Betsie died. After finally being taken to the hospital, Betsie had gone on to her reward. Corrie had sneaked into the back of the hospital where several dead bodies laid about...including Betsie Ten Boom's. Corrie asked mentally why God would allow this to happen, but she left the hospital with the assurance that her sister was safe in the arms of Jesus.
Only a few days later, Corrie's name was called--her name! She was so used to "Prisoner 66730." Little did she know that she was to be released! Now she could go and make her sister's dream a reality! First, she had to stay in the hospital for awhile. Ravensbruck would only release prisoners when they were in good health.
Home! It felt so good to be home! She could finally see her family and friends after an eternity of separation! But better than that, she was finally free to bring healing to those who suffered for their willingness to bring hope to a persecuted race.