This week meet Corrie ten Boom, the brave Dutch woman who, along with her family, risked her life to harbor Jewish people in her home during the Holocaust. Some estimate that approximately 800 lives were saved by their efforts.
The ten Boom family were watchmakers who became involved with the Dutch Resistance during the Second World War after Corrie obtained 100 extra rations cards from a friend who worked in the local ration-card office. Jewish people were not granted ration cards during the wartime shortages so Corrie secretly distributed the cards to every Jewish person she met. When the Resistance got word of her efforts, they asked the ten Boom family if they could come build a secret room in their house where Jews could be hidden. The family agreed.
For three years the ten Boom family ran underground activities in their home. This could be anything from temporarily housing someone until a safe house could be found, or permanent housing as long as the war continued. A buzzer was installed at the house to alert the family when the Gestapo was at the door. Those hiding had roughly one minute to get into the upstairs secret room- no bigger than a wardrobe- where they would stand until they were safe to exit again.
On February 28th, 1944, a Dutch informant told the Gestapo about the ten Boom’s secret activities and the house was raided. The whole family plus 30 coworkers were arrested and imprisoned. Miraculously, the 6 Jews in hiding survived the raid and managed to escape a few days later to safety. The ten Boom family, however, faced their greatest challenges yet.
Casper ten Boom, father of Corrie, died ten days after his imprisonment. Shortly after, Corrie and Betsie were transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Berlin. The women endured starvation, illness, humiliation and abuse before Betsie passed away on December 16th, 1944. 12 days later, due to what is believed to be a clerical error, Corrie was mysteriously released. A week later, all the women in her age group at Ravensbruck were sent to the gas chambers.
Before Betsie’s death she had told Corrie that she wished to open two homes- one in Holland and one in Germany for concentration camp survivors and also those who had cooperated with the Nazi’s during the war and could now not find employment. It was the ten Boom sisters’ Christian faith that led them to a spirit of love and forgiveness for the Nazi’s who persecuted them and their Jewish friends. These homes were to be places of healing, growth, and comfort; a stepping stone on the path back to a healthy life. Betsie had even gone so far as to describe the colours of the paint, the faces on the statues, and the design of the bricks in the homes they would use. After Corrie’s release, two strangers approached her to offer her their homes for these projects; both places match Betsie’s descriptions perfectly.
Until her death in 1983, Corrie ran the two homes, and traveled the world sharing her story. She was an activist for healing for not only those who were persecuted during the War but also for the forgiveness and reconciliation of those who were the persecutors: an incredibly inspiring feat, as someone who was persecuted by the same people she sought to help.
Corrie is a beautiful example of bravery, boldness, and unconditional love. She was a woman truly willing to give up her own life for the protection of another, and a woman who truly lived out unconditional love, a love that extended even to those who killed her father and sister. Because of her willingness to love, countless lives were saved, healed and today, continue to be inspired.