Corrie ten Boom is a hero of my faith. Words do not adequately describe this woman and the way she lived out her simple faith. Corrie is the one who taught me to hide beneath the shadow of God’s wing. She taught me to open my eyes to see the Lord in the midst of horrendous circumstances.
I am forever grateful for her.
Corrie and her family risked their lives by hiding Jews in occupied Holland during World War II. They were eventually found out, arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbruck, a notorious Nazi death camp. Corrie survived. Her family did not.
The following is an excerpt from the book of Corrie’s story, The Hiding Place.* May you be inspired to endure life’s hardships and find the goodness of God in the midst of broken places when life does not make sense.
A Glimpse Into the Life of Corrie ten Boom:
From the crest of the hill we saw it, like a vast scar on the green German landscape; a city of low gray barracks surrounded by concrete walls on which guard towers rose at intervals. In the very center, a square smokestack emitted a thin gray vapor into the blue sky.
Like a whispered curse the word passed back through the lines. This was the notorious women’s extermination camp whose name we had heard even in Haarlem. That squat concrete building, that smoke disappearing in the bright sunlight — no! I would not look at it! As Betsie and I stumbled down the hill, I felt the Bible bumping between my shoulder blades. God’s good news. Was it to this world that He had spoken it? …
It was the third night as we were getting ready to lie down again under the sky when the order came to report to the processing center for new arrivals. A ten-minute march brought us to the building. We inched along a corridor into a huge reception room. And there under the harsh ceiling lights we saw a dismal sight.
As each woman reached a desk where some officers sat she had to lay her blanket, pillowcase, and whatever else she carried onto a growing pile of these things. A few desks further along she had to strip off every scrap of clothes, throw them onto a second pile and walk naked past the scrutiny of a dozen S.S. men into the shower room. Coming out of the shower she wore only a thin prison dress and a pair of shoes. Nothing more.
But Betsie [Corrie’s sickly older sister] needed that sweater! She needed the vitamins! Most of all, we needed our Bible. How could we live in this place without it? But how could I ever take it past so many watchful eyes without the overalls covering it?
We were almost at the first desk. I fished desperately in my pillowcase, drew out the bottle of vitamins and closed my fist around them. Reluctantly we dropped the other things on the heap that was fast becoming a mountain.
“Dear God,” I prayed, “You have given us this precious Book, You have kept it hidden through checkpoints and inspections, You have used it for so many …”
I felt Betsie stagger against me and looked at her in alarm. Her face was white, her lips pressed tight together. A guard was passing by; I begged him in German to show us the toilets.
Without so much as a glance, he jerked his head in the direction of the shower room. Timidly Betsie and I stepped out of line and walked to the door of the big, dank-smelling room with its row on row of overhead spigots. It was empty, waiting for the next batch of fifty naked and shivering women to be admitted.
“Please,” I said to the S.S. man guarding the door, “where are the toilets?”
He did not look at me either. “Use the drainholes!” he snapped, and as we stepped inside he slammed the door behind us. We stood alone in the room where a few minutes later we would return stripped even of the clothes on our backs. Here were the prison things we were to put on, piled just inside the door. From the front and back of each otherwise ordinary dress a large “X” had been cut out and replaced with cloth of another color.
And then we saw something else, stacked in the far corner, a pile of old wooden benches. They were slimy with mildew, crawling with cockroaches, but to me they seemed the furniture of heaven itself.
“The sweater! Take the sweater off!” I hissed, fumbling with the string at my neck. Betsie handed it to me and in an instant I had wrapped it around the Bible and the vitamin bottle and stuffed the precious bundle behind the benches.
And so it was that when we were herded into that room ten minutes later we were not poor, but rich. Rich in this new evidence of the care of Him who was God even of Ravensbruck.
We stood beneath the spigots as long as the flow of icy water lasted, feeling it soften our lice-eaten skin. Then we clustered dripping wet around the heap of prison dresses, holding them up, passing them about, looking for approximate fits.
I found a loose long-sleeved dress for Betsie that would cover the blue sweater when she would have a chance to put it on. I squirmed into another dress for myself, then reached behind the benches and shoved the little bundle quickly inside the neck.
It made a bulge you could have seen across the Grote Markt. I flattened it out as best I could, pushing it down, tugging the sweater around my waist, but there was no real concealing it beneath the thin cotton dress. And all the while I had the incredible feeling that it didn’t matter, that this was not my business, but God’s. That all I had to do was walk straight ahead.
As we trooped back out through the shower room door, the S.S. men ran their hands over every prisoner, front, back, and sides. The woman ahead of me was searched three times. Behind me, Betsie was searched.
No hand touched me.
At the exit door to the building was a second ordeal, a line of women guards examining each prisoner again. I slowed down as I reached them but the Aufseherin in charge shoved me roughly by the shoulder. “Move along! You’re holding up the line!”
And so Betsie and I arrived at Barracks 8 in the small hours of that morning, bringing not only the Bible, but a new knowledge of the power of Him whose story it was.
There were three women already asleep in the bed assigned to us. They made room for us as best they could but the mattress sloped and I kept sliding to the floor. At last all five of us lay sideways across the bed and managed to get shoulders and elbows arranged.
The blanket was a poor threadbare affair compared with the ones we had given up, but at least the overcrowding produced its own warmth. Betsie had put on the blue sweater beneath her long-sleeved dress and wedged now between me and the others, her shivering gradually subsided and she was asleep. I lay awake a while longer, watching a searchlight sweep the rear wall in long regular arcs. hearing the distant calls of soldiers patrolling the walls …
*Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Viking Press, 1971), 193-195.
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Sweet blessings to you,