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Reformed Literature
A Presbyterian Internet Journal

The Hiding Place

The triumphant true story of Corrie Ten Boom

with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

Bantam Books

The name 'Corrie Ten Boom' was one that I had heard a few times and I would have correctly been able to identify her as both Dutch and associated with World War 2. Beyond that point my own knowledge would have been sadly lacking.

Corrie Ten Boom grew up with her parents in Harlem (Holland) and she worked in a traditional watchmakers/repairs shop (that was the family business). The first few chapters of the book chart the life of an ordinary Dutch Reformed household with its regular life of prayers and family worship. There is an indication of the problems in nearby Germany with a young employee that they released who was acting inappropriately towards an older employee.

Then in 1939, as everyone knows, Holland was invaded by the Nazi military machine. Suddenly, this Christian family was confronted by the ugliness of anti-semitism, the burning of synagogues and the random arrests by the Gestapo. One day she gives the account of returning from the Grote Markt and finding Jews being rounded up, 'Father, those poor people' she commented. Her father echoed 'Those poor people' but to her surprise he was looking at the soldiers, adding 'I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the applie of God's eye'.

Soon afterwards, she has thrown herself into the movement for protecting and smuggling Jews into safety. It is a delight to read of the Christian Charity that is given at huge personal risk - simply because it is what any one of the Lord's people ought to do in those circumstances.

After some time they were raided by the Gestapo and the family was arrested. I will let the book speak of the treatment of the elderly Ten Boom father, 'Suddenly, the cheif interrogators eye fell on Father "That old man!" he cried "Did he have to be arrested? You old man!" Willen led Father up to the desk. The Gestapo chief leaned forward. "I'd like to send you home, old fellow," he said. "I'll take your word that you will not cause any more trouble". I could not see Father's face, only the erect carriage of his shoulders and the halo of white hair above them. But I heard his answer. "If I go home today," he said evenly and clearly, "tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks". The amiability drained from the other man's face. "Get back in line he shouted".'

Later, she is interviewed by a military interogator and asked about her evangelical work with the mentally infirm. The man snaps at says 'What a waste of time and energy!, if you want converts, surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world.' To which she replies, 'May I tell you the truth, Lieutenant', and goes on 'The truth, is that God's viewpoint is sometimes different from ours - so different that we could not even guess at times at it unless he had given us a book which tells us such things. In the Bible I learn that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us. Who knows, in this eyes, a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker. Or - a lieutenant!' A simple majestic Christian stand for truth in the most daunting of circumstances. It was also one that struck into her interrogators conscience. Later he would ask about the other things in that Book and she would tell him about Light in the world, and he would confess to only seeing darkness.

After a period they (Corrie and her sister Betsie) are deported to a German Concentration Camp. On the first night they take strength in First Thessalonians, with its 'Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another... comfort the feeble minded and support the weak...see that none render evil for evil unto any man...' this seems to have seemed very suited to their circumstances but Betsie says that is not all... it then says ''rejoice evermore. Pray with ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerned you' At this point they proceed to pray and thank God for their blessings, 'such as being assigned together', 'having succeeded in smuggling a Bible in with them', 'to thank the Lord for crowded cell blocks - that would give them a chance to witness to others'... and finally, Betsie 'thanked the Lord for the fleas'... Corrie dissents from this aspect of the prayer... but a few months later realises that the fleas kept the camp guards from searching the quarters and therefore, they had good reason to even be thankful for the fleas.

It is a heartwarming account of Christian courage - we need to read and remember these tales as we are rarely expected to witness for Christ from comfortable surroundings