The incredible faith and kindness of Corrie ten Boom Part 2
The Netherlands in 1942 was not a safe or happy place. Invaded by the Nazis, the population kept under the brutal heel of an occupation force, the population turned against itself with some resisting while others openly collaborated to save their own skin. It was a dangerous, uncertain time where the slightest mistake could get you killed.
And Corrie ten Boom had just welcomed a Jewish woman she didn’t know into her house. A true act of Christian compassion and mercy, but one that made her a criminal in her own homeland.
You have to understand what exactly it meant to shelter a Jew at this time and in this place specifically. The Beje house where Corrie and her family lived was literally half a block away from the police headquarters. The police were actively collaborating with the Gestapo, any murmur or rumor would lead them straight to their door. The punishment for sheltering or aiding Jews could not have been made any clearer by the Nazi occupying force – imprisonment and execution for everyone involved. In a city made desperate by food shortages, forced and underpaid labor, uncertainty, and infighting there was no end to the number of people who would give you up or cast accusations on you just for a loaf of bread or to merely deflect attention from themselves.
By taking in this stranger, Corrie placed her life, her sister’s life, and her father in harms way. But she did it. She did it because she knew it was what God expected of her. And then she did a whole lot more.
Corrie did not content herself with saving just one person. No, she got involved with local underground efforts. The family jewelry shop became a cover, a contact spot to talk to and pass messages between resistance members. A secret room was built in the Beje house, hidden behind a false wall and big enough to hold six people at a time, a regular hotel. Corrie began taking in a rotating group of endangered Jews and resistance members who needed shelter.
Her background in charity work proved invaluable at this time. With deep connections in the community and knowledge of likeminded people, Corrie was able to secure crucial supplies no one else in the resistance would have been able to get. For example, ration cards were worth more than gold while starvation and hunger ruled the streets of Haarlem, and the Nazi occupation refused to issue them to Jews. Corrie had years previously worked with a family who had a disabled daughter through her charity efforts. That girl’s father, Fred Koornstra, was a bureaucrat who was placed in charge of a ration card office. These were people who knew and respected each other, and when Corrie asked Fred if she could have some extra ration cards, his answer was "how many.” According to Corrie she meant to only ask for five, but when she opened her mouth "the number that unexpectedly and astonishingly came out instead was: 'One hundred.'” She left with an arm load of life saving ration cards she gave to Jews across the community saving an unknown number of families from certain starvation.
Sadly, eventually the Nazis caught wind of what was going on. An informer in the community, one of their own, tipped the Gestapo off and the home was raided. Incredibly, they never found the secret room and the terrified Jews inside. Sadly, they did find excess ration cards, resistance materials, and other contraband. More than enough for the Nazis to arrest the entire family on the spot.
Dark days followed. Corrie, her older sister Betsie, and her father Casper were imprisoned. Their lovely father, the smiling watchmaker who loved his work and gave so much to his community died within ten days of imprisonment. Corrie and Betsie endured beatings and torture but never told the Nazis where to find the hiding place or sold out anyone else in the resistance. The sisters managed to stay together, eventually ending up in the Ravensbrück concentration camp where Betsie also perished in 1944.
But Corrie survived. She was eventually released from the camp and returned to a ruined, empty home. It’s the kind of horror that could break a person. Nobody would blame Corrie if she became bitter, if she walled herself up and never again put herself out there on behalf of someone else again. But Corrie’s clear eyes and true faith led her down a much brighter path.
Somehow STILL thinking of others even after her own horrific ordeal, she set up a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors. She worked with fellow survivors to heal the mental and emotional wounds of their trauma and reclaim their lives. Incredibly, despite witnessing and experiencing the evil of the Nazis firsthand, Corrie had the strength and love in her heart to advocate for reconciliation. She saw forgiveness as the best way for her country to heal after enduring their turmoil and had no desire to see more innocents suffer in retaliation.
In an act of almost unimaginable grace, offered a helping hand to collaborators who had bent to the Nazis during the occupation. Her reasoning was that many of them were just desperate people who survived the only way they knew how. She didn’t want vengeance, she instead offered forgiveness to the very kind of people who had her family imprisoned and killed. That is the kind of radical forgiveness that is only possible through Christ.
Corrie ten Boom gave everything she had and more to help her fellow man. Her inspiring story would be recounted in both the novel and film of "The Hiding Place” and her accolades would include induction into the Righteous Among the Nations and being knighted by the queen of the Netherlands. But her greatest legacy would always be her teachings. After the war, Corrie traveled the world for more than 30 years to spread a vital message - "there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.”