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Corrie ten Boom was one of many courageous and selfless Dutch people who sheltered persecuted people in the Netherlands during the Second World War. In addition to risking her life to protect people in need, ten Boom went on to form a rehabilitation center after the war, and she traveled widely as a teacher and minister, bringing her devout Christian values to people all over the world. She also published an autobiography, The Hiding Place, in 1971; the book went on to be made into a film about her experiences.
Cornelia Johanna Arnolda ten Boom was born in 1892 in Amsterdam. Shortly after she was born, her watchmaking family moved to Haarlem, where they set up shop and home in a structure which came to be known as the Beje. She lived at Beje with her father, Caspar, and her brother and sister, William and Elizabeth. She also apprenticed with her father, becoming the first female watchmaker in the Netherlands in the 1920s.
The ten Booms were an extremely devout Christian family dedicated to service and helping others. Their home was always welcome to guests and people in need, and they tried to help their community whenever and however they could. After the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, the ten Booms became active in the Dutch Resistance, sheltering Jews and members of the Dutch Resistance in a hidden room. Ultimately, Corrie ten Boom became a major figure in the Dutch Resistance, and it is estimated that the family's safe house sheltered at least 800 Jewish people during the Second World War.
In 1944, the ten Booms were betrayed and sent to Nazi prison camps. Corrie ten Boom survived, but her family members did not, and after the war, she returned to Beje and turned it into a rehabilitation center. She also began to testify about her Christian faith, and to travel around the world to continue her family tradition of helping others. Corrie ten Boom was recognized by the State of Israel and the Queen of the Netherlands, among others, for her contributions during the Second World War.
Corrie ten Boom was only one among many bold and brave people across Europe who attempted to stand against the tide of Nazism. She is well known and beloved in the Netherlands, and alas not widely known outside of Europe, especially in the United States, despite the fact that she lived out her last years in the United States, dying in Orange, California in 1983. People who are familiar with her story widely regard her as one of the unsung heroes of the Holocaust, and thanks to the work of historians, it is possible to visit Beje today, as the house is maintained as a museum.
I first heard of this remarkable woman when I saw a special about Oskar Schindler, of "Schindler's List." The documentary mentioned he had a tree planted for him in the Righteous of the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It also mentioned Corrie ten Boom, which spurred me to find out more about her.
She never aspired to be more than a watchmaker like her father, but ended up carrying the Gospel and a message of hope and forgiveness.
Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroes! I read her book "The Hiding Place" when I was about 12, and it profoundly affected me. I cannot express what her example as a faithful Christian in horrific circumstances has meant to me.
The secret room where her family hid Jewish people during Nazi raids was never discovered. About six weeks or so after being imprisoned, her sister sent her a care package with the hidden message, "All the watches in your closet are safe." By that, she meant the six people who were hidden in the room when the raid came remained undiscovered.
Corrie's father died ten days after being arrested and her sister, Betsie, died just a few weeks before Corrie was released. Even Corrie's release should never have happened. It was a "clerical" error. All the women her age were sent to the gas chamber shortly after she left Ravensbruck. She was truly a hero.