On February 28th 1944, a man turned up at the ten Booms’ shop and said he was looking for a place for some Jewish friends to stay. He was a Dutch collaborator, and had been sent by the Gestapo.
The walls of Ravensbrück concentration camp, which are still used to place tributes of flowers to those who died there.
During that day, the Gestapo arrested everyone who came to the house. By the evening, 30 people had been taken, including Corrie, Betsie, Willem and Casper.
The Gestapo then searched the house from top to bottom, searching for the Jewish fugitives they knew must be there. Inside the narrow, cramped space of the hiding place, behind the false wall in Corrie’s bedroom, six people were hidden: two Jewish men, two Jewish women, and two members of the resistance. Amazingly, their hiding place was not discovered during the search, and they were able to escape from the house 48 hours later. Four of them survived the war.
It is estimated that the courage and resourcefulness of the ten Boom family saved the lives of 800 Jewish people, plus an unknown number of members of the resistance and others wanted by the Nazis.
Corrie and her family were taken to Scheveningen Prison, near The Hague. Ten days later, Casper died. Corrie, suffering from a tubercular fever, had reached the lowest point of her life. Even so, she began talking with a German lieutenant who was haunted by the things he was forced to do, and who took an interest in her faith.
“I could not sleep,” the lieutenant said, “thinking about that book where you have read such different ideas. What else does it say in there?”
On my closed eyelids the sun glimmered and blazed. “It says,” I began slowly, “that a light has come into this world, so that we need no longer walk in the dark. Is there darkness in your life, lieutenant?”
There was a very long silence.
“There is a great darkness,” he said at last. “I cannot bear the work I do here.”
Although Corrie never knew what became of Lieutenant Rahms, and did not know what effect her talks with him had, he did at least show her some kindness. He let her know that her sister Betsie was all right, before reuniting the two women and their brother for the reading of their father’s will. Corrie managed to get a small Bible smuggled into the prison, and despite numerous searches and close calls over the next year, no one ever found it.
Towards the end of the war, Corrie and Betsie were moved into the women’s extermination camp at Ravensbrück, near Berlin. There, they were treated badly, overworked, underfed and abused, experiencing the worst of the Nazi concentration camps. Despite the terrible conditions, the ten Boom sisters managed to keep up their spirits and supported their fellow prisoners.
Betsie died of starvation and ill-treatment on the first day of 1945 at Ravensbruck, but as the Allied armies approached Berlin, the surviving prisoners in the camp, including Corrie, were allowed to go free.
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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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