‘The Hiding Place’ and Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom may be most familiar to readers of Christian literature for her words of inspiration. She was a woman of remarkable strength and character, who risked everything for her beliefs and for the welfare of strangers. She paid a terrible price for her convictions. But, in the end, rose above the ash and rubble of war torn Europe, a glowing example of all to which the human spirit should aspire.
The Beje Cornelia (Corrie) Arnolda Johanna ten Boom was born on 15 April, 1892, the youngest of four children. The other marc jacobs s were Willem, Betsie, and Nollie. Her devoutly Christian family lived with three of Corrie’s aunts in a house called the ‘Beje’, which was situated above her father’s watch shop in Haarlem, the Netherlands. But, by the time the war began, only she, Betsie, and their father, Caspar, remained in the Beje. Corrie followed her father into the watch making business, becoming the first female horologist in Haarlem.
The Hiding Place is the story of the ten Boom family during World War II. It is Corrie’s personal memoir of the events that she experienced. And it is also a personal statement of her faith as a Christian.
The story of The Hiding Place opens in 1937 with the 100th birthday of the watch shop. This introduces the reader to all the major characters of the story: the whole ten Boom family, as well as ‘Oom’ Hermann Sluring (known as Pickwick), a wealthy friend of the family. At this party Corrie received the first hint of her future, when Willem (who had been preaching of the dangers of Nazism as early as 1927) arrived at the party with a Jew, who had just escaped from Germany.
Resistance When Germany invaded Holland in May, 1940, the ten Booms began to resist the Occupation. They started off small. With the aid of Nollie’s son Peter, they hid their large radio and turned in the portable. Corrie’s lie to the army clerk was her first.
During the first year of the Occupation there were only minor attacks on the Jews of Haarlem. However, once the Nazis began to round up and deport Jews, Corrie, Betsie, and Caspar decided that they must help. Willem was in contact with people in rural areas who were prepared to hide Jews; so, when Corrie heard of a nearby shop being invaded by German soldiers, she sent a message to Willem. Willem’s son Kik came to the Beje after curfew to take the shopkeeper, Mr Weil, and his wife away to safety.
Corrie used God’s guidance to establish their own network to help the Jews. Many of those who came to the Beje were moved on to ‘safe houses’ in the country.
It was Kik who first mentioned the Dutch Underground to Corrie. He introduced her to Haarlem’s underground network, where, for security purposes, everyone’s name was Smit. The Dutch underground was involved in liaison with the British and free Dutch, and helped downed pilots to reach the coast. They gave Corrie all the help they could, such as the use of official cars, forgery skills, and false papers. They also offered to create a secret room in the Beje, where the Jews could hide in the event of a raid.
The room was built by one of the most famous architects in Europe, but known to Corrie only as Smit, of course. He created a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom, having the materials carried in briefcases. The fake wall looked identical to other walls in the house; and the room behind it was the size of a medium wardrobe, only 30 inches deep, with an air vent on the outside wall.
There were bookshelves on the bedroom side of the false wall; and beneath the bottom shelf there was a small sliding panel, which opened into the secret room. The hiding place contained a mattress, biscuits, vitamins, and a jug of water, besides the possessions of any unofficial residents of the house.
The Dutch underground arranged for the Beje phone to be reconnected and the number changed, so that they could use it for Underground work. They could never be sure that the phone wasn’t tapped, however, so they developed a code using watchmaking talk. For example:
We have a woman’s watch here that needs repairing, but I can’t find a mainspring. Do you know who might have one?This would actually mean:
We have a Jewish woman in need of a hiding place, and we can’t find one among our regular contacts. Do you know anyone? The first Jew to stay at the Beje on a permanent footing was Meyer Mossel, a cantor from the Amsterdam synagogue. His wife and children were in hiding on a farm; but the owners had refused to take him because of his quintessentially Jewish looks. His arrival broke down the ten Boom’s last hesitations over hiding Jews themselves.
Within a week the Beje had three more inmates: Jop, the shop apprentice, who opted to stay at the Beje rather than risk travelling to and from work; Henk, a young lawyer; and Leendert, a schoolteache marc jacobs r.
Leendert installed an electric warning system in the shop, putting a buzzer in every room with a street window. Once this was in place the Beje held practise drills, so that all the Jews would get into the secret room in under a minute if there were an emergency. The buzzer could be heard throughout the house but not outside.
Pickwick, who was deeply involved in the underground, provided Corrie’s most regular assistance. He warned the ten Booms to watch bins, ashtrays, and mattresses, so that they did not provide clues to the existence of their illegal guests, in the event of a raid. He also warned that mealtimes and night time were when the police preferred to attack.
Pickwick and Kik initiated practise drills. The first of these (which included removing plates from the dinner table, as well as the people, from view) took four minutes. After several more practise drills, they managed to make the house appear home to just three people in only 70 seconds.
At the same time, the Beje gained three new lodgers: Thea, Meta, and Mary. These six people became the nucleus of the household.
As time went on, it became more dangerous for those involved in helping the Jews. Nollie’s strict honesty led to her be arrested when she admitted hiding Jews; however, the Jews in question still escaped imprisonment. Corrie approached a prison doctor to get Nollie released; and, after seven weeks, Nollie was set free on grounds of ill health and the theory that her children would become a burden on the state without her. Corrie had neglected to mention that the children were all over 18.
The drills at the Beje took on a new intensity; but Corrie still found it hard to remember to deny knowledge of their Jews in the foggy first moments of being awoken. At one point, a local police chief summoned Corrie and told her that he knew she was involved in the underground. He then asked her if she could find someone to kill a police officer, whom he knew to be an informer. Corrie refused, preferring instead to pray that the man would stop informing to the Germans.
As it became clear that people were aware of their work, the ten Booms knew they were in increasing danger; but they could not stop their work. One day, Jop went to warn the residents of a farm of an expected raid, and was arrested there, because the raid occurred sooner than expected. Corrie was warned that Jop was likely to talk.
The Raid The long feared event occurred on 28 February, 1944. Corrie had the flu, and Willem was conducting a prayer meeting in the Beje. Early in the day, a man from Ermelo came to the house. He said that he had been hiding Jews, and now his wife had been arrested. He begged for 600 guilders to bribe a prison officer. Corrie was hesitant, yet she didn’t want to risk not giving it. She arranged for the money to be given to him. A little while later, Corrie was roused by their desperate lodgers racing to the hidden room.
A police captain entered the home almost immediately, and ordered her to go downstairs. Corrie had prepared a special bag in case of a raid; but she was forced to leave it and it’s precious contents, including night things, a bible, and vitamins behind, as it was too close to the entrance to the secret room. The Beje’s ‘All Clear’ sign remained in the window, so visitors continued to enter and were also ensnared. In total, 35 people were arrested, among them Pickwick and the ten Boom family father, four children, and one grandchild, Peter. They were forced into a bus and driven away. As they went Corrie recalled a dream she had on the night of the German invasion:
I had seen it all. Willem, Nollie, Pickwick, Peter all of us here drawn, against our wills, across this square. The chief interrogator there seem shocked that Caspar had been arrested.
I’d like to send you home, old fellow. I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble. Gestapo chief If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks. Caspar Corrie tried to free the others of bla marc jacobs me by admitting to being the ‘ringleader’. It failed and many of the group were moved to prison.
They arrived at Schvengenin Prison, where the ten Boom family were separated. Corrie was sent to a cell shared with three other prisoners. But, after two weeks, she was taken to a doctor, and then to solitary confinement, probably due to illness.
On 20 April, 1944 (Hitler’s birthday), all of the prison guards were absent at a party. The women began to call out to each other through the food holes in their doors, passing names left and right down the corridor. They tried to send messages and find out about other prisoners. Corrie heard rumours of a prospective Allied invasion of Europe, that Nollie had been released more than a month before, and that Betsie was still alive, though in prison. Peter, Pickwick and Willem had all been released as well. There was no word of Caspar.
Soon afterwards, Corrie received a letter and a package from Nollie, containing some of the items from Corrie’s prison bag and the news that Caspar ten Boom had died 10 days after his arrest. Corrie added another date to her list scratched on the wall ‘Father released’.
Corrie noticed that the handwriting on the envelope was slanting up towards the stamp in an unusual way. Upon investigation, Corrie found that t marc jacobs here was a message hidden under the stamp: ‘All the watches in your closet are safe’. Corrie knew that those hidden in the secret room were still safe.