In May 1940, despite promises to respect Dutch neutrality, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands and within five days had taken over the country.
This advertising sign for Alpina watches was used by the ten Booms as a secret signal during the war. If the sign was placed in the window, it was safe for Jewish refugees to come inside.
At first, little changed. German soldiers appeared everywhere, but mostly behaved themselves, and many patronised Casper ten Boom’s shop. Gradually, however, things began to change.
Jewish businesses were shut down, and shops began to display signs saying that Jews would not be served. Everyone was issued with ration cards and identity cards. People began to disappear, and their homes were taken a few weeks later by the families of the collaborationist government.
Corrie’s Christian services for children with learning difficulties were banned by the Nazis. Young men were taken away by them and forced to work in factories producing armaments.
One night, the ten Booms befriended a man who had only recently begun to wear the yellow star that showed the world he was a Jew. Harry De Vries became a regular at the ten Booms’ home after dark, the first of many who would pass through their doors. Gradually, the ten Booms found themselves hiding one Jewish person after another.
By the end of 1942, because a friend and customer of Casper’s was involved in the Dutch underground resistance, the ten Boom home became a waystation for Jews, students opposed to the Nazis, and resistance members on the run. The old watchmaker’s shop was, it turned out, perfect as a hiding place – it had few right angles and its floors were mismatched.
Several people were able to hide behind a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom, which they entered through a small sliding door in the bottom of her linen cupboard. This was known as “the hiding place”.
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Our famous follower in these pages is Corrie ten Boom, whose family courageously provided a refuge for Jews and others wanted by the Nazis during the German occupation of Holland in the 1940s.
These pages were written by Howard Ingham.
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