Faithful Heroes: Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom dedicated her life to serving Christ. She traveled the world sharing her testimony of surviving the concentration camps and extending a hand of forgiveness.

young Corrie ten Boom

Cornelia ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892 in Harrlem, Netherlands. She was the daughter of a Dutch watchmaker, Casper ten Boom, and his wife, Cornelia Arnolda Luitingh ten Boom. She went by the name Corrie and had three older siblings. Sister, Elisabeth {Betsie} and Arnolda Johanna, and brother, Willem. {Another brother was born and died before her birth.}

Corrie became the first licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands, having learned the trade from her father. Her sister, Arnolda Johanna, married in 1919 and their mother died in 1921.

In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. One of the restrictions was to ban a club ten Boom ran for young girls.

In May 1942, the families life changed even more when a well-dressed woman arrived at the ten Boom hand with her suitcase in hand. Imagine her desperation as she said, “I’m a Jew. My husband has been arrested and my son is in hiding. The occupation authorities recently visited me. I’m scared to go back home. Would you please help me?”
Casper ten Boom replied “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.” He had helped other Jewish neighbors and readily agreed to help this woman. He was a student of the scriptures and believed the Jews were “God’s chosen people”.
The family was taking a huge risk with the police headquarters only half a block away.

Thus began “The Hiding Place“, or “De Schuilplaats” {in Dutch}. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, opened their homes to refugees and those who were sought by the Gestapo. 
Through an acquaintance she was able to obtain one hundred ration cards and hand them all to all of the Jews they met.

On February 28, 1944, the entire ten Boom family was arrested after the authorities were alerted to their work.  They were sent to Scheveningen prison. Casper ten Boom died ten days later. Amazingly, the refugees in hiding managed to escape and were safe.

After three months in solitary confinement, Corrie ten Boom faced her first hearing and spoke of her work with the mentally disabled. When the Nazi lieutenant scoffed, ten Boom said “in the eyes of God, a mentally disabled person might be more valuable than a watchmaker. Or a lieutenant.”

Corrie and Betsie were sent to another concentration camp before finally arriving at Ravensbrück concentration camp, a women’s labor camp in Germany. During their time there and after a hard days work, the women held worship services using a Bible they were able to sneak in.

On December 16, 1944, Betsie ten Boom died. Before she died, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.”

Fifteen days later, Corrie was released. God was in those details, because later she was told that her release was due to a clerical error. A week after she was released, all of the women in her age group were sent to the gas chambers.

Corrie ten Boom returned home in the midst of a cold, brutal winter when many were hungry. She opened her home to many who were mentally disabled and in hiding.

After the war ended, ten Boom set up a rehabilitation center in the Netherlands. The center operated until 1950, when the government accepted anyone in need of care.

In 1946, Corrie ten Boom returned to Germany and met two German officers who had been at Ravensbruck, one of which had been extremely cruel to Betsie. She forgave these men.

Corrie’s brother Willem, a minister, died in 1946 and her sister, Arnolda Johanna, died in 1953.

Over the years, Corrie ten Boom traveled to over sixty countries sharing her story. She wrote The Hiding Place in 1971 and it was made into a film four years later. She also wrote a number of other books.

Corrie was knighted by the queen of the Netherlands and honored by the State of Israel.

Corrie told one of speaking at a church on forgiveness and afterwards one former S. S. officer approached her and shared of his own conversion to Christ. She struggled to shake his hand and offer a hand of forgiveness, but with God’s help she was able to do just that.

In 1977, at the age of eighty-five, Corrie emigrated to Placentia, California. The next year, she suffered two strokes, which left her unable to speak.

Corrie ten Boom died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983.

In 2013, a sequel film Return to the Hiding Place was released in the United States {it was released two years earlier in the U.K.}

Her home in the Netherlands is now a museum. It is estimated that her family saved around 800 Jews during the Holocaust.

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