(April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983)
Cornelia Johanna Arnolda Ten Boom, was generally known as Corrie Ten Boom. She was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Corrie Ten Boom co-wrote her autobiography, "The Hiding Place", which was later made into a movie of the same name. In December, 1967, Corrie Ten Boom was honored as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" by the State of Israel.
Corrie Ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892, into a Christian family which openly practiced their faith. Their acts of generosity and social commitment had long been recognized. Their house was always open to any needy person.
Corrie’s grandfather, Willem Ten Boom, had established a watchmaker’s shop in 1837, at the age of 19, in Barteljorisstraat, Haarlem, Holland, the city where Corrie was born. The shop was located on the ground floor, while the family living quarters were on the upper floors.
Corrie Ten Boom in 1915.
In later years the shop was inherited by Willem’s son, Casper Ten Boom. In 1922, Corrie Ten Boom became the first licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands.
The Ten Boom Family - Betsie, Nollie, Casper, Willem, Mother, and Corrie.
Corrie Ten Boom was the youngest of four children. Her father, Casper Ten Boom, was a respected watch maker and repairman. Her older sister, Elisabeth (whom they affectionately called Betsie) was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, making her very frail. They had two other siblings: Nollie, their sister, and Willem, who was a theologian. Both of them were married, but, Betsie and Corrie never married. Corrie, in honor of Betsie, took a vow of celibacy.
The children of the Ten Boom Family - Betsie, Willem, Nollie and Corrie.
In 1939, the peaceful, neutral country of Holland was attacked by the Germans under Adolph Hitler. Only a few hours after Holland's Prime Minister's comforting speech about how Holland would never be attacked and there would be no war, the sound of bombs exploding awakened sisters Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom. They had just retired for the night. Corrie Ten Boom was 48 years old, when the war began.
In occupied Holland, the Dutch churches had issued a collective protest against the treatment of the country's Jews. Although Hitler's government ("the Reich") ignored such pleas, many Dutch citizens did all they could to protect innocent people and prevent their deportation. Without hesitation, they actively disobeyed the Nazis' unjust laws.
Some non-Jewish Dutch citizens, like Casper Ten Boom, the elderly watchmaker from Haarlem, decided to voluntarily wear the yellow star. He reasoned that if everyone wore the humiliating symbol, how could German Reich officials distinguish Jews from non-Jews?
His act of defiance is recreated in "The Hiding Place," a film based on his daughter Corrie's book of the same name.
Corrie Ten Boom, along with her father, Casper Ten Boom, and sister, Betsie Ten Boom, were some of the thousands of people who took Jewish people into their homes, and hid them from the Nazis . Corrie and her family also gave them stolen ration cards so that they could buy food and escape to the countryside. They knew the price was high and that they could be caught at any moment, but they did everything they could to save the lives of the Jewish fugitives and the resistance members..
Betsie and Casper ten Boom on March 9, 1944.
Casper Ten Boom's family was among those actively helping to save Jews and Dutch resistance members from death at the hands of the Nazis. He ultimately paid with his life. So did several other members of his family. His daughter Corrie, however, survived to tell their story.
The occupation of Haarlem resulted in stricter laws and very little freedom. Citizens were not allowed to leave their homes after curfew, which went from 9:00 to 6:00 pm. Holland's national anthem,"Wilhemus," was banned. The Gestapo, a Nazi police organization, would raid people's homes and take the young men between the ages of 17 and 30, and force them to work in the army.
The Jewish people were severely persecuted. They were imprisoned, killed, or sent to extermination camps to die. This didn't just happen only to the Jewish people, it also happened to anyone that helped them in any way.
Corrie Ten Boom
The Ten Boom family was compassionate and didn't care what anyone else said. They continued to open their doors to the needy - no matter what was their race or religious beliefs.
The triangular Alpina sign (It is barely seen through the curtains) was a signal that indicated that it was safe to enter the Ten Boom house.
The hiding place was entered through the back of Corrie's bedroom closet.
The hiding place was entered through the back of Corrie's bedroom closet. It was through the bottom portion of the closet. After they had gone inside, the back of the closet decended to seal it off.
Although their hiding place was cleverly hidden behind a false brick wall in Corrie's room, the Ten Boom family still had to be extremely cautious in all security matters.
An alarm system was placed in their rooms to inform anyone in the house of potential dangers. Their friends would, "break into" their house and pretend to be the Gestapo agents, so that they could practice what they would say (and not say, most importantly!) in case of a raid. Drills were done on a regular basis.
During practice drills, the illegal residents of the house would have to climb these steep stairs to Corrie's bedroom .
One night, while Corrie was in bed with the flu, the sound of footsteps awakened her. "We didn't plan a drill today," she thought while her head spinned with fever. She soon realized that this was not a drill! The Jews her family had hidden for so long were running from real Nazi police! She watched as each one of them sprinted into the false wall. That is... almost all of them. She heard the sickening sound of wheezing. The oldest Jew in their home, Mary Italle, had asthma and was struggling to make it to the secret room. Once Mary had made it into Corrie's room, Corrie sprang from her bed and helped her make it through the secret panel... only seconds before a Nazi policeman appeared in her room.
The police interrogated the family and many other people who came over to the Ten Boom home to warn them of the danger, a little too late. The police were brutal, especially to Betsie and Corrie. They struck them every time that they refused to tell them about their underground work.
Finally, the police loaded everyone that was found in the Ten Boom house into vans and headed for the city jail. They were taken into a large room (a former gymnasium) where several other prisoners sat waiting to know about their fate. The suffering they endured there, that night, was minuscule compared to what would soon be coming.
Two days after the raid, the six persons in hiding were able to escape through this window with the help of the resistance.
The entire story may be read in Corrie ten Boom's book, "The Hiding Place".
Once again, the Ten Boom family was loaded onto a van and headed for Scheveningen prison. Corrie and Betsie were separated from their father who was in another part of the prison. Corrie was still sick from the flu, therefore she was placed in solitary confinement for the majority of her imprisonment.
On the day of Adolph Hitler's birthday, the prison workers left to go to a party. Corrie attempted to learn more about her family's condition! She called out Betsie's name. Betsie was still in the prison and she relayed this message: "God is good!" Corrie found out that her sister Nollie, and her brother Willem had been released. She could not get any information about her father. No one seemed to know anything about him.
When Corrie received the news that her father, Casper Ten Boom, had died, she wrote on the wall: "Father: Released." Even in her time of grief, Corrie Ten Boom knew that her father was now in a better place.
Corrie got over her sickness and was soon well enough to attend her first hearing. The hearings were one-on-one and took plave in little huts. She was placed with Lieutenant Rhams. The Lieutenant tried at first to "butter her up" with kindness that had not ever been shown in prison. But, soon Corrie and Lieutenant Rhams became friends and scarcely discussed her critical situation. He seemed more interested in hearing about her family life and religious beliefs. She ministered to him. Lieutenant Rhams had gone through many tragedies in his life. He called it: "the Great Darkness". Through their conversations, both Corrie and the Lieutenant had found joy.
But, this joy did not last. Soon, Corrie, Betsie and several other female prisoners were transported to Vught, a concentration camp in Holland. The conditions there were terrible, much harsher than that of Scheveningen. The rules were very strict, and if they were broken, the entire camp would be punished. Sometimes, they would only get half-rations of food. Sometimes, they'd have to stand at attention for long periods of time. Sometimes, individual prisoners would be sent to the bunkers (a locker-sized room where prisoners would stand with their hands tied above their heads).
Vught was filled with much hate and violence. But there, Corrie and Betsie learned forgiveness in a place where it was sometimes impossible to forgive . Often, Corrie would hear her sister Betsie say "I feel so sorry for them," or "May God forgive them." It only took a moment to realize that Betsie was referring to their enemies. At first, Corrie didn't understand this compassion for the very people that were mistreating them. But, as time went on, faith took the place of fear and Corrie came to an understanding.
After a few months in Vught, which seemed like an eternity to them, Betsie, Corrie and other prisoners were once again transported to another camp. This time it was to Germany.
After piling into a van, the prisoners were taken on a Four day journey to Ravensbruck. Ravensbruck was the worst of all the prisons and camps that Corrie and Betsie had been to. At least at Vught and Scheveningen, prisoners were called by their names. In Ravensbruck, all you had was a number.
The moment that the weary prisoners arrived in Ravensbruck, the prison staff rushed toward them swinging their crops at them. The camp was filled with constant suffering. Every time that they needed to visit the doctor they needed to take off all their clothes - in front of men. Roll call was at 4:30 am, and anyone who arrived late would be beaten.
Ravensbruck was a Concentration camp for women which opened near Fürstenberg, just 56 miles north of Berlin, in May 1939. It was constructed on reclaimed swampland and built by male prisoners from Sachsenhausen during the winter of 1938-1939 . It was origionally designed to hold 15,000 prisoners, but, Ravensbruck eventually held more than 120,000 women from 23 different nations.
Irma Grese “worked” at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbruck, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Dubbed the “Bitch of Belsen” by camp inmates for her cruel and perverse behaviour, she was one of the most notorious of the female Nazi war criminals. In March 1943, Irma Grese was transferred as a female guard to Auschwitz, and by the end of that year she was Senior Supervisor, the second highest ranking woman at the camp, in charge of around 30,000 Jewish female prisoners. After the end of WWII , Irma Grese was tried as a war criminal and was hanged for her crimes.
Each day grew harder for the sisters. But they continued to place their trust in God who in turn gave them the strength they needed to survive unthinkable situations.
In Ravensbruck, Betsie became very ill. Corrie begged the prison workers to take her to the hospital, but they refused to do so. Instead, Betsie was made to go to the sick-call, which did not help her. During her sickness, Betsie told Corrie of her plans to start a camp for people to find healing from the scars caused by the concentration camp. Corrie listened and planned to make this dream come true.
A Ravensburk Crematorium.
A few days later, Betsie died. After finally being taken to the hospital, Betsie had gone on to her reward.
Corrie had sneaked into the back of the hospital where several dead bodies laid about... including Betsie Ten Boom's. Corrie asked mentally why God would allow this to happen, but, she left the hospital with the assurance that her sister was safe in the arms of Jesus.
Only a few days later, Corrie's name was called. She was surprised to hear her name! She was so used to "Prisoner 66730." Little did she know that she was going to be released!
Corrie Ten Boom and her family ultimately helped to save more than 800 people - through a "hiding place" built in Corrie's bedroom, before the Ten Booms were betrayed by a Dutchman, who had been working for Casper Ten Boom. He reported them to the Nazi police, on February 28, 1944.
The Gestapo never found the six people who were inside the secret space when the house was searched. About forty-seven hours later, a member of the Dutch resistance let them out through an upstairs window.
The ten Booms were punished for having illegal ration cards, which the Gestapo found hidden in the stairwell of their home. (Be patient with this slow-loading virtual tour.) Corrie and her sister Betsie were ultimately sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where Betsie died. Corrie was released, due to a clerical error, not long before other women in her age group, also imprisoned at Ravensbrück, were executed.The Raid At The Ten Boom Shop And Home
The Gestapo (the secret Nazi police ) and their agents waited all day long while keeping the watchmaker’s shop under surveillance, and then detained every and all of the persons who attempted to enter the premises. Towards sunset they had arrested around thirty prisoners.
They then raided the house, where they arrested Corrie, her father Casper, her brothers and sisters Willem, Nollie and Betsie and her nephew Peter They were incarcerated at the Scheveningen jail.
Although the Gestapo suspected that there were persons hiding somewhere and therefore carefully checked the whole building, they could not find the refuge where four Jews (two men and two women) and two resistance fighters were hiding at the time. Although the house had continued to be under survei1Iance, all of them would be rescued by other members of Corrie Ten Boom’s network.
The upstairs window from which the six hidden people were escorted to safety.
During the 47 hours they spent hidden until they were freed, they managed to stay motionless and silent, with practically with no food or water. The four Jews were taken to another refuge and three of them survived the war. As to the two members of the resistance, one of them passed away some time afterwards, while the other one managed to survive the war.
Four Jewish Dutchmen and two members of the Dutch underground survived a Nazi raid by hiding in the "hiding place". Part of the wall was later cut away after the war so museum visitors could see the brick wall and what it was like inside of the "hiding place".
The Fate Of The Ten Boom Family
While under detention, when Casper was informed that he could be condemned to death for saving Jews, he declared: ”It would be a honor to give my life for God’s chosen people”
. He died ten days after his arrest, at the age of 84 years.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were detained at three different prisons during the following ten months, until they were finally sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin, in Germany.
Betsie, who was 59 years old, died soon after being interned: she could not overcome the conditions to which she had been subjected.
The brother, Willem, who was 60 years old, and whose ”crime” had been his cooperation with the resistance, fell ill with tuberculosis while he was in jail, and died soon after the war was over.
One of Corrie Ten Boom’s nephews, Christian, who at the time was 24 years old, was taken to the Bergen Belsen death camp and was also accused of being part of the resistance movement. Nothing was heard of him ever since.Time Of Pardon And Forgiveness
Corrie Ten Boom returned to Holland and would recover from the health problems that accosted her since the time she was kept in prison. She spent in her own house in Haarlem the 1ast winter months of the war, but, she did not remain inactive. As she would say, ”God gave us love to enable us to pardon our enemies”.
Corrie did pardon. She forgave the loss of her dear ones and for her own sufferings, which had been inflicted on her while at the concentration camp. And she even went much farther. In 1947, in Muenchen, a man wanted to greet her and shake her hand. As soon as she looked upon his face she recognized him as one of the most cruel guardians at Ravensbruck. He was one of the many guards before whom she had to march naked together with her sister Betsie when, in accordance with the special criteria set up by the Nazis. They latter selected those who were still useful from those who had no useful purpose any more. How could she shake this man’s hands? He told her that he had "converted" to Christianity after the war and that he believed that God had forgiven him for all the evil he had done at the concentration camp. He said that he needed for her personally to tell him that she forgave him. Carrie did so, and shook hands with him.
And as it was evident that she had much more to give, she founded in Bloemendal a convalescent's house dedicated to the healing and relaxation of survivors.
Corrie believed that her life was a gift of God and that she needed to share with others what she and her sister Betsie had learned at the concentration camp: ”There is no pain so deep that God’s love cannot reach if”.
When she was 53 years old Carrie started a worldwide ministry to spread her faith and her experience, for which reason she traveled to over 60 different countries in the following 33 years of her life.
Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem) honored Corrie in several ways, including a case study and a tree along the Avenue of the "Righteous Among the Nations".
In 1978, Corrie Ten Boom suffered a cerebral-vascular stroke that left her paralyzed. She passed away on April 15, 1983, on her 91st birthday.
According with Jewish tradition, only those persons who are specially blessed by God are granted the privilege of dying on the same date of their birthday.
The old safe-haven was transformed into a museum. The building located at Nr 19, Barteljorisstraat, in Haar1em, did not change much since the 194O’s. Today, it is easier and faster to reach it, since it is located at only 15 minutes’ by train from Amsterdam.
The Casper Ten Boom Living Room.
The Corrie Ten Boom Foundation bought it in 1987, and the following year opened it for the public converted into a museum, since it is a site of great historic value and a source of inspiration for the faithful. The museum shows the rooms of the house with their furniture, objects and family portraits; the ”refuge” and a permanent exhibit of the Dutch Resistance Movement.
In actual fact, the house became again an ”open door house” for everybody as conceived by the ten Boom family in accordance with their principles and their faith, since admittance is free. And to keep tradition unchanged and going, a watchmaker’s shop is still functioning on the ground floor.Corrie Ten Boom's history is nothing more (and nothing less) than the life story of a common woman who accomplished extraordinary things through her Faith In God.
While Corrie Ten Boom is widely known among Christian circles around the world, in the Netherlands she's not quite as famous as the other wartime icon, Anne Frank.
Aty Bennema thinks there is a logical explanation for that: "First of all we are no longer a Christian nation and here at the museum we give a Christian message. The other reason is, there are many more people who did the same as the Ten Boom family, even in Haarlem."