A pastor’s visit to the Ten Boom house reminds us how the faith of one Christian family preserved many Jewish lives during the Holocaust.
We were in the last room on our tour through the Corrie ten Boom Museum, the actual house where Corrie and her Christian family hid Jewish people from the Nazis during World War II. As my wife and I perused the rooms, the spiral staircases, and the actual “hiding place” that was built by members of the Dutch resistance, I tried to imagine how it felt for those who took refuge there and for the Ten Booms who risked their lives to shelter them.
Over and over in the Bible, God tells His people, “Remember.” The members of the Corrie ten Boom House Foundation in Haarlem, a suburb of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, know the value of remembering. They purchased the home Corrie sold after the war, restored it, and opened it as a memorial museum in 1988. Today they welcome 27,000 visitors annually, carefully retelling what happened within its walls while weaving in the gospel that had motivated this devout Christian family.
The story is so compelling that in 1975 it was made into a movie, The Hiding Place, by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
For generations the Ten Booms lived over their jewelry and watch shop at 19 Barteljorisstraat in an old Dutch downtown neighborhood. They knew their neighbors well, some of whom were Jewish. Their church was a block and a half down the street and is still a beautiful landmark today.
Corrie’s grandfather Willem started an unusual prayer fellowship in the house in 1844. He invited friends to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the Jewish people, in obedience to Psalm 122:6. This was an unusual practice for Christians at the time, particularly since the Jewish people were scattered around the world without a national identity, and Jerusalem was a city torn by centuries of conflict and controlled by the Ottoman Turks.
Still, this godly Christian taught his family to pray for God’s Chosen People. Corrie saw a connection between those prayers and the part her family played in using the same house to rescue Jews from the Nazis nearly 100 years later.1
A few feet from Corrie’s bedroom and the tiny entrance to the “hiding place” through a floorboard in a closet, a mural displays how many of Adolf Hitler’s 6 million Jewish victims came from each European country. The Nazis murdered 75 percent (105,000) of the Netherlands’ 140,000 Jews.
Also prominent nearby is a map of Europe with the locations of all 20 death camps where Jewish people and others faced torture, gas chambers, and crematoriums. Sixty-seven percent of Europe’s 8.86 million Jews perished under Hitler’s “final solution.”2
My wife and I were pleased to learn that two of the tour groups the day we visited were schoolchildren. The lessons of history need to be conveyed to every generation. One of them involves the reality of evil and the potential people have for unfathomable wickedness. We are all sinners in need of the Savior.
The Ten Booms were heroes who lived out their Christian faith in troubled times. After Germany attacked and occupied the Netherlands in 1940, Hitler’s forces subjected the Jewish people there to the same persecution they had in Germany. By 1942, the extermination had begun. Large numbers of Jews in the Netherlands were being systematically arrested and deported, first to work camps and then to concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
The Ten Booms’ faith in Christ compelled them to join the resistance. They hid Jewish people until arrangements could be made to get them out of the city and to safer houses in the countryside. With the help of their friends in the underground, they rescued approximately 800 people.
In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie tells of asking a man, “Would you be willing to take a Jewish mother and her baby into your home?”
Color drained from the man’s face….“No. Definitely not. We could lose our lives for that Jewish child!”
Unseen by either of us, Father had appeared in the doorway. “Give the child to me, Corrie,” he said.
Father held the baby close, his white beard brushing its cheek, looking into the little face with eyes as blue and innocent as the baby’s…“You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.”3
After a year and a half of protecting Jewish people, the family was betrayed. The Nazis raided the house and deported the Ten Booms to concentration camps, where all but Corrie died. Amazingly, the six Jewish people in the “hiding place” were not found. Hours later, sympathizers sneaked into the house and led them to safety. In God’s providence, a clerical mistake was made that freed Corrie to live and share her story of love, forgiveness, and courage.
Corrie died in 1983, a true example of what it means to live for Christ. Today there is a commemorative plaque on the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. It reads, “CORRIE TEN BOOM & FATHER CASPER & SISTER ELISABETH. HOLLAND.”
God is always sovereign, regardless of circumstances. Corrie ten Boom believed Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This faith sustained her.
The Ten Boom family believed God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jewish people (Gen. 12:3). As the storm clouds of persecution gather, we need to emulate the courage of the Ten Booms to remain faithful to God’s Word, live out the gospel, and show the love of Christ—even if we suffer for it.
- Emily S. Smith, More Than a Hiding Place (Haarlem, the Netherlands: Corrie ten Boom House Foundation, 2015), 16.
- “Responses to Common Holocaust-denial Claims,” Anti-Defamation League <tinyurl.com/ADLarchivePC>.
- Corrie ten Boom, with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, The Hiding Place (New York, NY: Bantam, 1974), np.