Sunday, April 24, 2011

Visiting the Home of Two Heroines

Door to the ten Boom Huis. 

Yesterday I was able to pay homage to a heroine by visiting her home and hiding place in Haarlem, Holland.

I grew up with the stories of Betsie, Corrie, and Father ten Boom.  They were a devout Christian family, who, in 1940, were made up of a centenarian and his two spinster daughters whose compassion for human suffering knew no Jewish boundaries during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands.

Their home became a hiding place (made Biblical by Father ten Boom's reading of Psam 32:7 verse) and way station for Jews in the underground.  They had built a false exterior wall Corrie's upstairs bedroom two feet wide in which eight Jewish adults might hide (standing), made accessible through Corrie's linen cupboard.

The ten Booms were betrayed.  Although the four Jews and two young Holland resistance workers were kept safe in their hiding place for 42 hours before being rescued, the patriarch quickly died and his two spinster daughters were sent to a concentration camp.  There, Betsie and Corrie miraculously snuck in a Bible and had nightly Bible readings, keeping them sane and helping them to convert many.  There Corrie learned to be grateful even for the fleas, because they kept the guards away and allowed the small group to meet and memorize (and translate into half a dozen languages) Bible passages.

Only Corrie survived the camp.  After being released on a technicality, instead of allowing bitterness to creep into her life, she founded a home for recovering concentration camp soldiers and prisoners.  One particular guard who was most cruel came up to her, saying he had prayed mightily and knew that he had received forgiveness.  He had prayed to be able to find a prisoner so he could ask for forgiveness.  He had found Corrie and heard her speak on forgiveness, and ask that she might forgive him.  Corrie held out her hand, telling God that was all she could do, knowing that forgiveness was not an emotion, but an "act of will."  She was blessed instantaneously with a forgiving heart as she clasped her persecutor's hand.  (Read the full story here.)

I have lived with these stories which have been told in my own home and in my faith's General Conference.  I have read the book twice over, and watched the movie more than once.  It was a bit overwhelming to visit the home and relive these stories and the ways in which Corrie and Betsie had touched my life and so many others.   I am grateful for these lives which have touched mine for good.  God bless you, Corrie and Betsie, and may you rest in peace.

Me in the Hiding Place (wall obviously knocked out).

A false exterior wall was added for the hiding place,  built past the baseboards
because the Nazis were that thorough in checking for hiding places for Jews.
Corrie's room is so small that the best view of the Hiding Palce
could be seen from the stairwell outside her door.

The hiding place door had two levers on the inside -
 the pulley on the left pulled it up, the lever on the right pulled it down.


  1. That is amazing. I never heard about them until I read the book for book club some months back. Its incredible what they went through and still all the good that they did.

  2. Very moving story. I did not know of the ten Booms. Thank you for sharing!