Skip to main content

The Hiding Place: Saving Holland’s Jews during WWII

Written By | Apr 14, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas, April 14, 2018: A couple of weeks ago Jews and Christians celebrated Passover and Easter Sunday, respectively. Both observances illustrate and celebrate God’s unwavering love and His steadfast devotion. Likewise, there is another commemoration next month that celebrates the 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel. With the stroke of a pen this nation of “God’s Chosen” came to be for the first time in almost 2,000 years.

Unfortunately, it is likely that if the Holocaust didn’t happen, Israel might not exist. The survivors of Hitler’s atrocities declared, “Never again!” then fought for and won their independence with the blessings of the newly formed United Nations.

Jerusalem Post front page in 1948

On May 14, 1948 Israel became a nation again for the first time in 2,000 years. (mfa.gov.il)

During World War Two, many Christians risked their lives to save countless Jews. The Yad Vashem Memorial Center in Israel honors these courageous people with the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

A section of the memorial center is dedicated “to convey the gratitude of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to Righteous Among the Nations who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust.”




With the stroke of a pen this nation of “God’s Chosen” came to be for the first time in 2,000 years.

One of the recipients of this honor is Corrie ten Boom, known for her book, The Hiding Place. Miss ten Boom and her family were devout Christians who lived in Holland during the war and went out of their way to save as many Jews as possible from the Nazis. They lived their unshakable faith and held steadfast to it no matter what the cost.

It started in 1844. Willem ten Boom was a clockmaker in Haarlem, Holland, and a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Already a proponent to improve Judeo-Christian relations, he was inspired to found a weekly group whose sole purpose was to pray for Jews and for the peace of Jerusalem – an unusual idea among Christians for the time.

His son Casper, also a watchmaker, continued the prayer group with his own family. He and his wife Cornelia had four children: Betsie, Willem, Nollie and Corrie. Casper moved his young family to the clock shop in the early 1890s. Friends, family, love and laughter filled the apartment above the store. Known for their generosity and compassion, the ten Booms always opened their door to those in need.

Known for generosity and compassion, the ten Booms always opened their door to those in need

Then in May 1940 the destruction of Rotterdam led to the surrender of Dutch forces to the Nazis. The ten Booms witnessed the harassment and indignities against their Jewish neighbors and were appalled. Members of the Dutch Reformed Church protested the persecution, for they believed the injustice was an affront to divine authority.

Soon Jews had to wear the yellow star that made them easy prey. Casper ten Boom — 80 years old now — insisted on wearing one too. He said that, if everyone wore a star, then the Nazis wouldn’t know who was Jewish and who was not.
The family fought back through the Dutch Resistance. They also began to hide Jews, slave labor camp escapees and members of the Underground. When told his actions could cost him his life, Casper answered simply, ““It would be an honor to give my life for God’s chosen people.”

To start, they built a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom and included a closet. It had a trap door where the refugees could enter the tiny eight foot by two foot space. The construction was so good that Corrie could hardly tell the difference.
Guests didn’t have to stay in the cramped quarters all the time. But if the Gestapo came, each person had a job to do. They held practice drills regularly in an effort to cut down on the time it took to get the refugees to safety and the apartment to appear as if all was normal.

The actual hiding place in ten Boom home in Holland

False wall in Corrie’s bedroom. The trap door is to the left in the bottom of the closet wall, the actual 8’X2′ hiding place to the right behind the false wall.

The ten Booms witnessed the harassment and indignities against their Jewish neighbors and were appalled

Middle-aged now, Corrie was the ringleader of the Haarlem Underground. With the generous help of others she had a steady supply of food ration cards and a hard-working team that believed in their mission. Resistance fighters, young men and at least 800 Jews escaped certain slavery, torture and death because these brave souls did what was right even if it cost their lives.

In spite of the darkness that blanketed Holland, faith, love and laughter continued in the ten Boom household. Jews and Christians became one family of faith that gathered to study, talk, sing and encourage each other. They worshiped in mutual love and respect that became a light.

Some Dutch citizens, collaborators, sided with the Nazis. They were enticed by secure jobs, extra food rations and assurance of safety for their families. This was a thorn in the side of the ten Booms because it was hard to tell who could be trusted and who could not.

That’s what tripped them up; a collaborator found out their secret. On Feb. 28, 1944, the Gestapo paid a visit to the happy home above the clock shop and arrested the entire household, including 84-year-old Casper. Four Jews and two Underground members made it to the hiding place and waited. The room had air vents to provide fresh air, and there was a pot in the corner for waste.



The ten Boom home was filled with love and laughter while Corrie was growing up.(ten Boom museum)

Though tortured, not one of the ten Booms gave up their refugees

One of several web sites dedicated to Corrie, tenboom.org, notes

“Although the house remained under guard, the Resistance was able to liberate the refugees 47 hours later. The six people had managed to stay quiet in their cramped, dark hiding place for all that time, even though they had no water and very little food.”

Though tortured, not one of the ten Booms gave up their refugees. Dutch Underground materials and extra ration cards found in their home meant imprisonment at a concentration camp.

While dragging the old man from his home during the arrest, a German officer told the elder ten Boom that he could die in his own bed if he promised to behave himself. Casper ten Boom stood tall, looked him square in the eye and replied,
“I will [always] open my door to anyone who knocks for help.”

**Join me for the next part of this story. Find out about how Corrie and Betsie fared as prisoners and how the terrifying darkness they endured served as a stepping stone tolight.

***

Read more of Claire’s work at Communities Digital News and Greater Fort Worth Writers Group. Join her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Claire Hickey

Claire Hickey was born the last year of the Baby Boom and spent the first half of childhood in Chicago. She has always loved to write but wanted to create pieces worth reading. Her curiosity and love of research lead her to create her column based on the “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought-provoking pieces that enrich her readers. She also believes life is a banquet and loves to learn new things. Her professional pedigree includes Cosmetology, Surgical Technology, and the Culinary Arts. When not working she loves to spend time with family and friends. She lives in Fort Worth.