Meet The Ten Boom’s Family
The day was not different neither was the weather at Haarlem, Netherlands but something made a difference in the Ten Boom’s home on April 15, 1892. They received a special gift – Cornelia Arnolda Johanna ten Boom, popularly known as “Corrie”.
She was the youngest of two sisters, Betsie and Nollie, and one brother, Willem. She was named after her mother Cornelia and their father, Casper, was a jeweler and watchmaker.
The ten Boom family lived in the Barteljorisstraat, Haarlem, Holland. They were strict Calvinists in the Dutch Reformed Church. As propelled by their faith, they were inspired to serve the society. They offered shelter, food and money to those in need, but they soon lost the mother of the house.
Corrie hoped for romance and a happy marriage just like every young lady. But, God’s clear denial of this dream came when the love of her life, introduced her to his fiancée. With her father’s guidance, Corrie surrendered her only hope of ever getting married.
Corrie’s grandfather Willem had established a watchmaker’s shop in 1837 in Haarlem, Holland. With the shop on the ground floor, the family lived in the upstairs. Later the shop was inherited by his son Casper, Corrie’s father. She then trained to be a watchmaker also, and in 1922 became the first female licensed as a watchmaker in Holland.
Over the next decade, she worked at her father’s shop. She also established a youth club for teenage girls, which provided religious instructions, as well as classes in the performing arts, sewing and handicrafts.
In 1942, Corrie was fifty years old, living with her older sister and father in their well-loved Haarlem home.
The Jews Sought for Safety at the Ten Boom’s Home
During the World War II, the Gestapo (German Secret State Police) arrests were in full force. Their fearful Jewish neighbour, turned to them for shelter, needs and supply, and Corrie couldn’t turn them down.
As more people came knocking, Corrie realised their location was too dangerous, due to its nearness to the police headquarters. This led to a complicated underground work of relocating Jews to houses in the country, to keep them off the attention of German guards. She then planned out the idea of the family house being used as a refuge. Since the watchmaker’s shop had many customers constantly coming and going, it was the perfect secret location that would not easily raise suspicion.
The secret room built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall became the hiding place and refuge for both Jews and those who were members of the resistance movement, sought out by the Gestapo and Dutch authorities. This small space was the size of a small wardrobe closet and could hold up to six people at a time. There was a buzzer in the house which signaled danger as security sweeps came through the neighborhood, giving the refugees just over a minute to safely hide. There in this small space, they would have to remain very still and quiet, until an all-clear was given.
It became more demanding as they housed a woman who had a baby and an older woman with laboured breathing. This put them at more risk of getting caught.
Corrie Ten Boom became a leader in the “Beje” movement, overseeing a network of “safe houses” in the country. Through these activities, it was estimated that about 800 Jews’ lives were saved.
The Imprisonment of the Ten Boom’s Family
On February 28, 1944, their home was raided and Corrie and her family were taken to prison. They were betrayed by a man who was an informant. He had entered the shop saying he was Jewish and seeking help for his wife who had been arrested.
All Ten Boom’s family members were incarcerated, including Corrie’s 84-year-old father, who soon died in the Scheveningen prison, located near The Hague.
Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were remanded to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. During their time in the concentration camp, after the hectic daily work, Corrie and her sister held worship services in their barracks with the other women. They used a Bible they had managed to sneak into the camp.
Betsie died at the camp on December 16, 1944. Just days before her death, Betsie said these words to Corrie, which many people still quote to this day, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us Corrie, because we have been here.” Twelve days later, Corrie was miraculously released from prison, due to a “clerical error.” It was indeed miraculous because, a week after her release all the female prisoners from her age group were killed.
Corrie returned to the Netherlands after the war, and set up a rehabilitation centre for concentration camp survivors.
In 1946, she began a worldwide ministry that took her to more than 60 countries. She received many tributes, including being knighted by the queen of the Netherlands and honoured by the state of Israel.
In 1971, she wrote a best-selling book of her experiences during World War II, entitled, ‘The Hiding Place’ which was later made into a movie in 1975.
Corrie also wrote several other books that were published and others that are not published. Many of her works surrounded themes of love and forgiveness which she also lived by.
In 1977, at age 85, Corrie moved to Placentia, California. The next year, she suffered a series of strokes that left her paralyzed and unable to speak. She died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. According to the Jewish traditional belief, this indicated that she was specially blessed, to have passed away on her birthday.
Her childhood home in Haarlem is now a museum which is dedicated to her family’s memory and she received several tributes for her work and courage.
A Life Worthy of Emulation
Indeed, Corrie lived a significant life that is worth emulating.
The demands of a significant life are certainly not petite. The significance of our lives is dependent on how much we can do and how far we can go, that others find to be burdensome.
Let’s do a quick review of some significant qualities in Corrie’s life that we also need to make a difference:
Corrie’s love for God propelled her to love others. Her life was a strict obedience to God’s command to love others as He has loved us. This was what made it difficult for her and her family to ignore the persecuted and the plight of the Jews. Though they knew the consequences of helping the Jews, yet they did. They gave up so much for them and went out of their way to make them comfortable.
How much are we willing to do for the love of Christ? Remove the love of God and the love of others from Corrie, and nothing would have made a difference in her life. All she did was propelled by her loving heart.
This is beyond loving others like ourselves, but also loving others as Christ has loved us.
A significant life, is an impacting life, and it takes loving others to make any significant impact in people’s life.
Though she was just a simple clockmaker living with her father and sister, yet, she was ready to go as far as saving the Jews, when she saw their suffering.
She gave them shelter at the expense of the comfort of herself and her family, catered for their needs, and risked their own lives. She was aware of the cost, yet she didn’t shut the door against the Jews.
How much are we willing to sacrifice for others? Even those that are dear to our heart, do we even do anything out of our comfort zone for them?
It took God giving up His only Son to save mankind. It also took Jesus, sacrificing His life to save mankind. This in turn bought Jesus a place at the right hand of the Father, and gave Him the name that is above every other name.
No one becomes great and notable without a life of sacrifice. We can decide to stretch ourselves and go the extra mile or sit still in our comfort zones and become lost in the midst of the multitude.
Submission to the Will of God
Becoming a bride, wife and mother was also part of her dream, but she gave it up in total submission to God’s will for her life.
While she was in prison, she didn’t stop pursuing the will of God. She kept witnessing with her sister, and taught the scriptures when they had the opportunity.
Corrie was very receptive to the instructions of God. This was the guide for her daily activities, knowing fully well that He knows the best for her.
Only by submitting ourselves to the will of God can God work out His will in our lives.
A remarkable part of Corrie’s character was revealed in the way she forgave others.
At Ravensbruck, she was first thrown into areas with crude women that were rude to her, and behaved badly towards her. Yet, she harboured no resentment against them.
At a point, she struggled with forgiving the cruel prison guards that caused her and her sister so much pain, during their imprisonment. But, reflecting on the scriptures, she was able to forgive the guards, and put at rest the harsh and bitter feelings she felt towards them.
More than I can explore are the godly virtues she had. This enabled her to live a life with a difference.
Making a difference is living in the understanding that, it is not the enormity of what we gather in life that counts, rather, the lives we enrich with our resources. In one of her quotes, she said, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”
Live a life worthy of emulation!
You can be the next person the world and generations to come will read about, if you will be willing to pay the price. She paid hers, and it paid off. Pay yours!
REVIEWER: Fadipe Mayomikun (Appointed Pen) 08168161864