The Hiding Place
One of my faith heroes is a now-deceased Dutch woman named Corrie ten Boom, a member of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Corrie, her older sister Betsie, and their elderly father Casper were living a quiet existence above a watch repair shop which they owned in the city of Haarlem when the Nazis invaded in 1940. Shortly after the Nazis invaded, a pro-Nazi government was set up and it began arresting Jews and sending them to concentration camps. From 1942 to 1944 the ten Boom house became a hiding place for Dutch Jews and others who opposed the Nazi regime. Moved by their faith in Christ, the ten Booms became active in the Dutch underground resistance, which protected people from Nazi prisons and concentration camps. For two years, the ten Booms hid and cared for people before sending them on to greater safety.
In 1944, the Gestapo raided their home and arrested Casper, his daughters, and several other family members and friends. Already in his 80s, Casper died just ten days after being arrested. Corrie and Betsie were imprisoned and then sent to one of the most brutal concentration camps in Germany, Ravensbrück, where prisoners died daily. Corrie watched Betsie waste away and die, and she nearly died herself. Her story of faith and courage can be read in her book The Hiding Place, which is both her autobiography and her faith story.
My own family provided refuge to Jews during World War II. My mother lived on a farm near the German border and often hid Jews in their farmhouse. Once, they were providing refuge to a young Jewish mother and her eight-month-old baby. In the middle of the night, the Nazis raided their house, but the Jewish mother managed to escape. Unfortunately, a soldier found her baby. They had already forced my grandfather into the back of the truck, and my then seven-year-old mother watched in horror as the soldier, clutching the baby by his leg, tossed the infant into the back of the truck. My grandfather picked the crying baby up and cradled it as my mother watched the truck rumble away into the night. The next morning my grandfather was returned, but the baby and mother were never heard from again.
This summer, I had the opportunity to visit the ten Boom museum in Haarlem. You walk into Corrie’s bedroom where she lay sick when the Nazis raided the house. You can see the trap door in the back of Corrie’s closet that the Jews disappeared into and the staircase behind the fake wall. The only other place that comes remotely close to provoking the same emotion was St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero in New York City. That little church was used as a refuge for rescue workers on September 11th and that later became a shrine to the victims of the Twin Towers attack. That humans could show such hatred to other humans; that still other humans could show such intense love to their fellow humans is both baffling and amazing.
Corrie ten Boom survived that war. She spent the rest of her life traveling the world and speaking about God’s great love. She also carried out the dreams her sister had in the concentration camp: establishing a place for released prisoners to go to be healed, providing a home for people who were widely hated for having sided with Germany, and turning a concentration camp into a home for Germans whose homes had been destroyed by the war.
That Corrie could forgive her tormentors and provide a refuge for them after the war is nothing short of amazing. Even though her enemies persecuted her, she forgave them, just as Jesus forgave his enemies and tormentors.
The psalm that was dear to Corrie’s heart—and one that I grew up with as the son of parents who both survived World War Two as children—is Psalm 91. Until the day she died, Corrie preached that of all the hiding places and places of refuge humans can provide, the only true refuge is in Jesus, no matter your circumstances, no matter your hardships.
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
Ron DeBoer is an educator and writer living in Kitchener, Ontario.