One of the highlights for us this month occurred during our trip to Holland. When we took the opportunity to visit the Corrie Ten Boom museum in Haarlem.
We were so blessed by the gospel message that was so openly shared by the Corrie Ten Boom museum and were without doubt challenged by Ms Ten Boom’s message of love and challenge to forgive.
Some of the interesting facts we learned about Corrie Ten Boom:
- Corrie was the youngest child of Casper and Cornelia Ten Boom. She was raised by her family in Haarlem, Amsterdam. Corrie spent the first 50 years of her life living peacefully with her father and sister above their watch shop in Haarlem, Holland. But when World War II broke out, this Dutch Christian family knew they had to offer help to those being persecuted. They began providing “hiding places” for Jewish people and Dutch resistance fighters in their home, helping many to escape the Nazi Holocaust.
- Corrie’s Father was a watchmaker. Her father was her inspiration when it came to her choosing a career path. In 1922, she was considered to be the first woman to get a license as a female watch maker in the Netherlands.
- Corrie’s grandfather Willem had established a watchmaker’s shop in 1837 in Haarlem, Holland. Her grandfather, Willem ten Boom, founder of the watch shop, had begun a prayer group to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in 1844. It is likely he would have been amazed at how God would use the little granddaughter, born just four months after he died, to help answer his prayer for the 2 Jewish people. Corrie’s own father, Casper, a well-loved expert watchmaker who was known as “Haarlem’s Grand Old Man,” also had a love for the Jewish people and prayed regularly for them. With the shop on the ground floor, the family lived in the upstairs.
- In May 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. At the age of 48, in the midst of the pressing reality of those suffering great persecution, Corrie decided she had to do something to help. She devised a way to assist those needing aid, and planned out the idea of the family’s house being used as a refuge. Since the watchmaker’s shop had many customers constantly coming and going, it was the perfect secret location, since it didn’t easily raise suspicions.
- The secret room built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall became the hiding place and refuge for both Jews and those who were members of the resistance movement, sought out by the Gestapo and Dutch authorities. This small space was the size of a small wardrobe closet and could hold up to six people at a time. There was a buzzer in the house which signaled danger as security sweeps came through the neighborhood, giving the refugees just over a minute to safely hide. There in this small space, they would have to remain very still and quiet, until an all-clear was given.
- On February 28, 1944, Corrie and her family were betrayed by a man who was an informant. He had entered the shop saying he was Jewish and seeking help for his wife who had been arrested. Gestapo agents kept the watchmaker’s shop under surveillance throughout the day, then arrested every person who attempted to enter the house, and the entire ten Boom family also, 30 in all. Although the Secret Police suspected there were more persons actually hiding in the house, even after careful search, the 4 Jews and 2 resistance fighters were kept hidden until they were rescued by other members of Corrie’s network several days later. Corrie’s sister Betsie died in the camp in Germany. But Corrie was the only survivor and was released on 28th December 1944.
- All of Corrie’s family were arrested and imprisoned. When her 84-year-old father was told he could be condemned to death for saving Jews, he responded, “It would be an honor to give my life for God’s chosen people.” He died soon afterwards in the Scheveningen prison, and Corrie and her sister were deported to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp. The sisters were able to stay together throughout their imprisonment, until her sister Betsie died on December 16, 1944. Twelve days later, Corrie was miraculously released from prison due to a “clerical error.” A week after her release, all of the female prisoners from her age group were killed.
- During their time in the concentration camp after long, hard days of work, Corrie and her sister Betsie held worship services in their barracks with the other women, using a Bible they had managed to sneak into the camp. Corrie writes in her book “The Hiding Place”, “At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder and Betsie or I would open the Bible and share. Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text, we would translate aloud in German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb.”
- In 1946 at the age of 53, Corrie started a worldwide ministry that took her to more than 60 countries over the next 33 years, and gave her the opportunity to share God’s love and hope with many people.
The following story was told to us in the museum and struck a deep chord that resonated with us. By clicking on the image of Corrie below you can hear the testimony below shared by Corrie herself. (7min 14sec) … it is honestly well worth the time to just hear her share this powerful story…
“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
“He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.’ He said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’ His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silentprayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”