Corrie Ten Boom was born on
April 15, 1892, in Haarlem, Holland. (Corrie was short for Cornelia.)
She had two sisters, Betsie, Nollie and one brother Willem. Corrie was the
youngest child of Casper and Cornelia Ten-Boom.
Her Grand Father, Willem Ten Boom, who was a watchmaker, lived and established his company in Amsterdam in 1837. This became kind of tradition because the company was taken over by the sons and grandchildren. Casper, the son of Willem later moved to Haarlem and opened a clock repair shop at Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem, Holland in 1892. The shop also served as a residence with living quarters on the second level. It was a good location on a corner near the town square in Haarlem. The Ten Boom family referred to the shop as the "Beje" house, which is an abbreviation for the street the shop was located on, Barteljoris street. This is also the year Corrie was born. Her family was devoted Christians who dedicated their lives in service to God and their fellow man. Their home was always open for anyone in need. Corrie was raised in the Dutch Reformed church and had a good education. It is said the Ten-Boom family attended big, beautiful St. Bavo Church which is at the edge of the town square and a block or so from their home. She has told stories of playing in the church as a child. The pipe organ in the church is immense and very famous. It was once played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and also by George Frideric Handel. During her childhood she was tomboyish and stubborn. She never married although she did have a boyfriend In 1910, Corrie studied two years at a Bible school. In 1918 the family started taking in the first of many children. Her mother died in the year 1919. The next year, 1920, Corrie passed the Bible school examination. That year, she began training as a watchmaker. In 1922 she became the first woman watchmaker licensed in Holland.
Corrie was always had a burden for children especially girls and in 1923, organized the first Haarlem girls' club. These had been started for girls of 12 -18 years of age and included activities such as gymnastics, music, walking and camping. During this time Corrie would take time to teach the girls that God loved them. and that they could always turn to Him in prayer. She also ran a club for mentally-handicapped young people, and she found that many of them really understood when she told them of God's love. In the 1930's the girls' club spread and became very large in Holland. Corrie also founded a Christian organization for girls which at one time had thousands of members in Holland and Indonesia. On May 10, 1940, the Nazis invaded Holland and banned her club organization and many other type of groups of that nature. Corrie was thankful she had taught the girls more than how to enjoy themselves. During the terrible years that followed, many of then found real strength from the faith in God that they had learned from Corrie.
The Nazi's made new restrictions on the Jewish population more stringent every day. They were banned from eating in certain restaurants, walking on the sidewalks, or talking to non-Jews. This was just the start of the harassment they were to endure. The Nazi's wanted a way to make the Jew's more identifiable so they made them wear a gold or yellow star attached to the sleeve of the coat they were wearing. Casper was Dutch but he insisted on wearing a star also.
By 1942, the family became very active in the Dutch underground hiding refugees. A room or space was built in Corrie's bedroom on the second floor of their house about the size of a closet where the extra people in the house would hide when any stranger came to the door. The construction of the "Hiding Place" went as follows: One evening Corries' nephew Kik took her to a meeting of the Dutch Underground. She there met and older man with a wispy beard who turned out to be an architect. He introduced her to a man named Mr. Smit. He came right over to the Beje house and said, " this is the perfect house for a secret room" and got busy with the project. During the next few days customers came to the shop bringing tools and materials hidden in harmless-looking paper bags or boxes. When it was finished, not even Corrie could have guessed that there was anything behind that stained old wall, with a bookcase against it. The workmen had made the new wall look a hundred years old. After completion, they practiced getting the guests into the room in the shortest amount of time. An alarm system was installed in the house by one of the Jews they were hiding who was an electrician. Before the guests entered the Hiding Place they had to make the house appear like no one extra had been living there. They did this by putting away plates, cups and silverware and turning over a mattress so the warm spot where a body was laying would be gone.
One Wednesday morning in February 28, 1944, Corrie was ill with flu at the time, a Dutchman whom Corrie did not know came to the door and asked for some money. He said he needed it urgently for ransom to save some Jews. Corrie did not feel sure about him, but could not risk letting down any Jews. It turned out later that the Dutchman was working for the Germans. She said to come back in a little while and when the door was opened for him the Gestapo was right behind. The guests were tucked away by then. The Nazi's tore the house apart looking for Jews or evidence linking the family to the Resistance. They found underground materials and extra ration cards. This was enough evidence for the Gestapo to arrest Corrie and her family and the other people in the house. The Gestapo laid in wait for more people to come to the house. By the end of the day they had arrested 20 people. A couple of the Dutch friends that were in the house at this time tried to escape through a skylight in the roof but were shot as they scrambled up the roof. The members of the family were beaten and questioned while the Gestapo searched the house for one half of an hour. The Nazi's then put a guard on the house. In the Hiding Place were two Jewish men, two Jewish women and two members of the Dutch Underground. Although the house remained under guard, the Resistance managed to rescue them two days later. During this time they had to remain still and not make a sound.
The Ten Boom family and friends were taken to the local police station where they spent the rest of the time sitting on the floor. At nine o'clock every night when they were home, Casper would hold family devotions. Here under arrest the group gathered around him to do the same. Casper knew most of the Bible by heart and quoted some words from Psalm 119. "You are my hiding place and my shield: I hope in your word.......Hold me up, and I shall be safe." His faith in God gave the others comfort and strength.
The next day they were taken to Scheveningen, a prison near The Hague about forty kilometers south of Haarlem. This is the last time they saw their father alive. Ten days later he died in prison. He was 84 years old.
After they were put in their cells, it was discovered that Corrie was real sick and was taken to the prison hospital. Here one of the nurses gave her a small packet which she had hidden in her clothes. It contained a toothbrush, some soap and copies of the four Gospels in a paper back edition. One of the doctors said she was too sick to return to her cell but the police took her from the prison hospitat to the cell where she was. She lived confined this way without a bed, only a straw mattress on the floor and one blanket in her unheated cell for four months. Corrie was very ill to start with when she got back to her cell but actually grew strength every day under these conditions. She was fed a plate of thin porridge in the morning and a slice of black bread in the evening. Corrie wondered what happened to the other members of her family but no one would talk to her. One day the other prisoners started making noise and the guards or warders did not stop them. The guards were off having a party because it was Hitler's birthday. The prisoners called out their names to each other and she found out most of the people from Haarlem had been released except for her and her sister Betsie.
One chilly morning in May she was called before a hearings officer. During the questioning she took every advantage to tell him about her Lord and Savior. Finally the officer said the hearing was over for the day. The next morning when the hearing continued the officer wanted to know more about God and the Bible. The officer said he would do what ever he could for her but did not have the authority to release her or Betsie. It turned out the officer did not like what he was doing and was afraid for his family because the town they lived in was being bombed every night.
During the four months she was in that cell by herself, she read and reread the four gospels the nurse gave her while in the hospital when she first came to the prison camp. The life, suffering and death of Christ Jesus became more real to her than ever before. She even began to see that all her suffering might have a purpose. In the same way, she felt that God can bring something good out of troubles that we go through. This thought gave her fresh courage and strength.
June 1944, Corrie and the other prisoners were told to pack up what they had and were put on a train. While waiting to board the train Corrie caught a glimpse of sister, Betsie. She made it through the crowd and at last they were together again. The train took them to Vught Concentration Camp in southern Holland. They were assigned to sleep in barracks. During the day she worked on manufacturing radios in part of the Philips factory. The radios were going to be installed in German aircraft.
The Allies had now invaded Europe but the guards told them not to get their hopes up. The next day they heard explosions but found out it was the Germans blowing up bridges and roads in the area. A few days later the guards at the men's side of the camp executed 700 men for no reason. Corrie and most of the women prisoners were put on a train and moved to another camp in Germany later that day. After two days in the train they are let out to find they were in a place called Ravensbruck.
Ravensbrück was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women. The camp is located 56 miles north of Berlin. The initial purpose of the camp was to supply cheap expendable labor to factories and farms in the northern part of Germany. Most of the women there were part of the resistance to Nazi occupation. The Ravensbrück women were an active part of the Dutch Resistance, French Resistance and many countries who took a stand against fascism and were among the first to be taken prisoners by the Nazis. Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbrück. It was one of the most brutal and cruelest of all the German Prison Camps. The camp was liberated in April 1945. The Soviets had occupied the camp as a military base since the end of the war and throughout the "cold war". When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the camp began its restoration as a museum and memorial.
After the first night of sleeping outside on the ground in the rain, they were made to line up for role call, and to stand that way all day except for when they had something to eat. In the evening they are told to put all their belongings in a pile, strip and to put on prison gowns. Right at that time, Betsie became sick and Corrie took her to the toilets. They noticed a pile of broken benches and junk near-by so they hid the blue sweater, bottle of vitamins and their Bible in the debris They made it through the inspection and still had their belongings. The blue sweater, bottle of vitamins and the small Bible were smuggled to them the day they left Holland by sister Nollie.
When they first moved into the barracks the conditions were so gross that the women became angry and they were not very hospitable to each other. The ladies suffered so much that it was hard for them to be nice to each other. Betsie noticed this and realized that something had to change so she started to pray. She asked God to give peace in the barracks. Very soon the mood changed and they even began to joke with each other.
In the evening time after a hard days work and a terrible supper, Corrie brought out the little Dutch Bible and they began to read and discuss what they read to each other. Soon a few prisoners joined them, then more and more. The guards would never come into that barracks because it was infested with fleas. Corrie and Betsie thanked God for the fleas many times.
There were women from all different countries in Europe and Russia. At first it was difficult for some to understand what was being said, but Corrie would translate Dutch to German, another person would translate German to another language until everybody could understand.
Corrie had a bottle of vitamin pills that her sister Nollie gave her at the time she gave her the Bible and the sweater. It is amazing how many vitamin pills came out of that bottle. Every time Corrie looked there still were nine pills left. It reminded Corrie of the story in the Bible of the widow's jar of oil. It was one of the things that kept her going through the terrible ordeals she and sister Betsie faced from day to day. One day a guard beat Betsie cruelly with a whip for not working fast enough. It caused her to pray that much more for the guards as well as the other prisoners. Betsie seemed to have risen above all the suffering and to be living very close to God.
In the month of November, besides the outside temperature being bitterly cold, Betsie got weaker and weaker and was taken to the prison hospital. Corrie was not allowed to visit her sister but each day would go look through the window where her room was and check on her. One day Betsie's bed was empty. Betsie had died. Corrie did manage to see her in the room where they had taken her and was amazed how her face had changed. Instead of being full of pain and suffering like it had, she was beautiful and had the face of an angel.
One day soon after at roll-call she heard her name called and was told to report to the guard house. She wondered what was going to happen next. Being released was the last thing on her mind but that is what happened. She was given clothes and a railroad pass to Holland to a hospital where the nurses arranged for her brother Willem to come get her. Soon Corrie was back at the Beje house. Afterwards Corrie learned she had been released from prison by a mistake and she also learned all the women of her age in the prison had been killed.
She then began to speak publicly about her experiences in the concentration camps. Before Betsie died, she told Corrie about a vision she had of a large house some where in Holland and described the garden, a large hall way with a carved wooden staircase. One time when Corrie was speaking to a group of people about the vision Betsie had about the house for people who had suffered during the war, a woman in the audience came up to Corrie and told her that her son had just been released from a camp in Germany and wanted Corrie to have her large house so the vision could could come to a reality.
The large house was in the town of Bloemendaal was opened in June 1945 and was called Schapenduinen. In that house many people who had suffered in prison camps found peace and comfort through the loving care Corrie and others gave them.
In 1946, she returned to Germany and that was the beginning of many years of traveling from country to country sharing the good news of Jesus, telling people about her experiences and how God took care of her. As time went on news of her spread to other countries and she was invited to come and speak. She ended up preaching in over 60 countries. In 1971 she received fame from her book "The Hiding Place." 1n 1975 the movie version came out of her book.
In 1977, she moved to America, wrote devotionals, made movie shorts and did speaking engagements.
One Easter evening in 1977, Corrie Ten Boom was a guest speaker at a Sunday service at Temple. My wife and I will always remember the little gray haired lady who spoke to us from the pulpit and from listening to her in my mind she was a true giant. Her speech was soft but the words she said were gigantic.
In 1978, she was paralyzed by a stroke. She died April 15, 1983 on her 91st birthday.
In 1990, my wife and I had the honor of visiting the Ten-Boom clock shop in Haarlem, Holland. The down stairs is still a clock repair shop that serves the needs of the town of Haarlem. While we were there I asked to have the battery changed in my wristwatch. The Ten-Boom residence, upstairs, is now a museum with a lady on staff who takes visitors on tour and tells the events of what happened to the Ten-Boom family. You can enter the little closet sized room called The Hiding Place, visualize the six or seven persons crammed in there for two to three days not daring to make a sound, walk out on the roof where the person or persons got shot as they tried to escape out of the little skylight. We also visited the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and saw the garden called "Avenue of Righteous Gentiles" where she was honored by the State of Israel in 1968. The garden where the tree is has honored many people who gave so much in aiding Jews during that terrible time in history. Another person honored there is Oskar Schindler.
Thou art my hiding place and my shield:
I hope in thy word. Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep
the commandments of my God. Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may
live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope. Hold thou me up, and I
shall be safe: ........
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
Proverbs 24:11 NIV
Return to Church History 1977