Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hiding Place

“In darkness God's truth shines most clear.”  ~Corrie ten Boom

“Dear foolish of me to have called for human help when You are here.”   ~Corrie ten Boom

My sisters and I are big on reading and sharing books, but when  Cindy put Corrie ten Boom's Her Story into my hands, I groaned.  Three volumes in one book, 497 pages, is one heavy reading list!  But she assured me that I'd love it and it didn't take long before I realized that she was right!

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who was born and died on exactly the same date, April 15th, living 91 years, from 1892-1983. The first biography of the volume, The Hiding Place, tells the story of Corrie's experience during World War II, assisting Jews as they escaped from the Nazis, and eventually being captured, along with most of her family, and sent to prison camp.

Now I've read quite a few harrowing tales of WWII and concentration camps such as Elie Wiesel's Night, Etty Hillesum's The Interrupted Life, The Diary of Anne Frank, Franz Jagerstatter's In Solitary Witness, and Fr. Alfred Delp SJ's, Advent of the Heart. And I've read and studied many other stories of martyrs such as St. Maximilian Kolbe and heroes such as Irena Sendler, but this book moved me in an entirely different way than any of those.  Not only was I filled with horror for the terrors imposed upon humanity by the Nazis, and great admiration for those who defiantly fought against them while standing up for their beliefs and saving the lives of many, but through Corrie ten Boom's story, I found myself examining my conscience over and over again, and with each search of my heart, I found myself coming up woefully short of the beautiful ideals that Corrie and her family lived by in such dark times.

Growing up, Corrie ten Boom learned from the wisdom of her parents and siblings, and especially from her sister, Betsie, that Jesus and His love overcome every evil in the world.  Corrie was so moved by the example of her sister who kept a peaceful and loving countenance all while suffering in the concentration camp, that she went on to dedicate the remainder of her life to promote healing, not only for the Jews and others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, but for the Nazis themselves, despite the difficulty she often struggled with in learning to forgive them for all of the harm they had done, causing her own suffering as well as the suffering of others.

It was hard to choose just one or two examples from the story that stood out enough to share here. The entire book was filled with heroic, loving situations!

I loved how her wise father gently talked her through her first and only heartbreak:  “Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.  God loves Karel--even more than you do--and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us his perfect way."

And he explained things to the young Corrie that were beyond her childish comprehension so beautifully:   “And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sexsin?"  He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.  Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.  I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.  It's too heavy," I said.  Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."

I was particularly moved by the description of how Corrie and her sister Betsie, while standing outside in the cold at attention while in the prison camp, would try to move to the inside of the group of women, where it was warmer. But then, chastising herself for her selfishness in disregarding the needs of the women on the outside of the group, Corrie allowed the other women to move to the center and selflessly stood on the cold edge herself.  Not many women would put others first in such a situation, and her explanation of how she brought herself to be so selfless is astounding:  “Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display such blatant evil one could almost believe one's own secret sin didn't matter.” 

Corrie's sister Betsie was particularly saintly.  She gave very little thought to her own suffering, or even the plight of the other prisoners.  Her thoughts were purely focused on Christ and on bringing His love to her enemies, as evidenced in this description:  "We had arrived at the main camp at Vught.  "Betsie!" I wailed, "How long will it take?"  "Perhaps a long, long time.  Perhaps many years.  But what better way could there be to spend our lives?"  I turned to stare at her.  "Whatever are you talking about?"  "Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!  We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes."  Slowly I took in the fact that she was talking about our guards and I wondered not for the first time what sort of person she was, this sister of mine." 

And when the guards struck Betsie on the neck, causing her to bleed from the red welt, she would not allow Corrie to feel pity for her.  "Don't look at it, Corrie.  Look at Jesus only."  Christ's suffering was at the forefront of Betsie and Corrie's thoughts at all times, despite their own sufferings.

I have never read about or encountered such deep faith, love and beauty. I pray that in my ordinary life, where it's doubtful that I will ever taste the deep despairing evil of a concentration camp,  that I will find the courage and fortitude to be as loving and grateful as Corrie ten Boom, despite any difficulties or hardships I may struggle through,believing that in God's hands, every situation will be used for good, for the building up of His kingdom and for His glory.  Like Corrie, I may struggle at first, but with the help of God, I will overcome the temptation to selfishness and will strive to love others in all circumstances, knowing that He resides and suffers in all of humanity, and by putting others first, I will be putting Him first.  What a wonder that kind of love and forgiveness could bring to this world, forgiveness as evidenced by Corrie's description of the time she met one of the guards after she had been released:  “Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”  

If you've not yet read The Hiding Place, I highly recommend it.  Be prepared to be spiritually uplifted and challenged to grow in your faith.


  1. Anne, thank you! I so admire the Ten Boom family! They were very holy people.

  2. Oh this is so powerful and moving in every way. Thank you for your sharing and critique of this amazing witness to love and forgiveness that God gives through us. I am definitely going to read this....God Bless you for your beautiful insights and words of this survivor's tale.

  3. This is one of my favorite books, Anne!