The Hiding Place opens in 1937 with the ten Boom family celebrating the 100th anniversary of their watch and repair business, now run by the family’s elderly father, Casper. The business took up the ground floor of the family home, known as the Beje. Casper lived with his unmarried daughters Corrie, the watchmaker, and Betsie, who took care of the house. It seemed as if everyone in the Dutch town of Haarlem had shown up to the party, including Corrie’s sister Nollie, her brother, Willem, and her nephews Peter and Kik. Willem, a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, brought a Jewish man who had just escaped from Germany as a guest. The man’s beard had been burned off by thugs, a grim reminder of what was happening just to the east of Holland. Then, in 1940, the Nazis invaded Holland. Due to the family’s strong Christian beliefs, they felt obligated to help their Jewish friends in every way possible.
The Beje soon became the center for a major anti-Nazi operation. Corrie, who had grown to think of herself as a middle-aged spinster, found herself involved in black market operations, stealing ration cards, and eventually hiding Jews in her own home. Corrie suffered a moral crisis over this work; not from helping the Jews, but from what she had to do to accomplish this: lying, theft, forgery, bribery, and even arranging a robbery. The Dutch underground arranged for a secret room to be built in the Beje, so the Jews would have a place to hide in the event of the inevitable raid. This secret room was hidden behind a wall in Corrie’s room. It was a constant struggle for Corrie to keep the Jews safe; she sacrificed her own safety and part of her own personal room to give constant safety to the Jews. Rolf, a police officer friend, trained her to be able to think clearly anytime in case the Nazis invaded her home and started to question her. When a man asked Corrie to help his wife, who had been arrested, Corrie agreed, but with doubts. As it turned out, the man was a spy, and the watch shop was raided.
The entire ten Boom family was arrested, along with the shop employees, though the Jews managed to hide themselves in the secret room. Casper was well into his eighties by this time, and a Nazi official offered to let him go, provided he made no more trouble. Casper did not agree to this, and was shipped to prison. It was later learned he had died ten days later. Meanwhile, Corrie was sent to Scheveningen, a Dutch prison which was used by the Nazis for political prisoners, nicknamed ‘Oranjehotel’–a hotel for people loyal to the House of Orange. She later learned that her sister was being held in another cell, and that, aside from her father, all other family members and friends had been released. A coded letter from Nollie revealed that the hidden Jews were safe. While at Scheveningen, Corrie befriended a depressed Nazi officer, who arranged a brief meeting with her family, under the pretense of reading Casper’s will. Corrie was horrified to see how ill Willem was, as he had contracted jaundice in prison. He would eventually die from his illness in 1946. Corrie also learned that her nephew, Kik, had been captured while working with the Dutch underground.
He had been killed, though the family did not learn of this until 1953. After four months at Scheveningen, Corrie and Betsie were transferred to Vught, a Dutch concentration camp for political prisoners. Corrie was assigned to a factory that made radios for aircraft. The work was not hard, and the prisoner-foreman, Mr. Moorman, was kind. Betsie was sent to work sewing prison uniforms even though her health was beginning to fail. When a counter-offensive against the Nazis seemed imminent, the prisoners were shipped by train to Germany, where they were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, a notorious women’s concentration camp. The conditions there were horrific; both Corrie and Betsie were forced to perform back-breaking manual labor. Betsie’s health continued to fail here.
Throughout the ordeal, Corrie was amazed at her sister’s faith. In every camp, the sisters used a hidden Bible to teach their fellow prisoners about Jesus. In Ravensbrück, where there was only hatred and misery, Corrie found it hard to look to God for His support; Betsie, however, showed a universal love for everyone–not only for the prisoners, but also for the Nazis. Instead of feeling anger, she pitied the Germans, sorrowful that they were so blinded by hatred. She longed to show them the love of Christ, but died before the war was over. Corrie was later released, due to what proved to be a bookkeeping error. Though she was forced to stay in a hospital barracks while recovering from edema, Corrie arrived back in Holland by January 1945.
Ten Boom, Corrie .., John L. Sherrill, and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Washington Depot, CT: Chosen, 1971. Print.