Corrie ten Boom: The price of helping Jews during WWII
FORT WORTH, Texas. — The Gestapo arrested and dragged an old man out of his happy home February 1944. The officer in charge told him that if he behaved himself, he would be back home soon and able to die in his own bed.
Hearing this, 84-year-old Casper ten Boom straightened up, looked the officer in the eye and avowed, “I will [always] open my door to anyone who knocks for help.”
It wasn’t a question of if he should do it; the elder ten Boom and his family couldn’t conceive of not helping those in need.
They believed in and lived the words of Christ as stated in the Gospel of Matthew, verse 25:35-36:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Casper’s father, Willem, had started a weekly prayer service in 1844 to pray for the Jewish people and the peace of Jerusalem. The family and their friends had gathered and prayed every week for 100 years by the time of their arrest.
This belief would cost them more than could be imagined, but they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I will [always] open my door to anyone who knocks for help.” ~ Casper ten Boom
The ten Booms’ first stop was Scheveningen prison, where guards separated them. Corrie shared her cell with three other women. Already sick, she became very ill, and guards took her to the prison hospital.
The doctor told the police that she needed to stay, but they took her back, this time to a solitary cell. Before leaving the hospital, however, a nurse slipped Corrie a small package that contained a toothbrush, soap and a booklet of the four Gospels.
Corrie worried about her family. It was impossible to learn anything about them since no one spoke to her. One day there were no guards present, the jailers having gone to a party in honor of Hitler’s birthday.
Able to talk freely, Corrie found out her father, Casper had died ten days after arriving at the prison. Heartbroken but faithful, she wrote on her prison wall, “Father released.”
Sister Nollie, brother Willem and nephew Peter were free. Only she and Betsie were still there. Soon Ministries reports of their existence:
“There was no bed….just a dirty straw mattress with only one blanket, which someone had been sick on. The cell was bitterly cold. The only food was a plate of thin porridge each morning and one piece of black bread in the evening.”
“Lord Jesus you were once questioned too. Please show me what to do.” ~ Corrie ten Boom
While there, Nollie got word to Corrie that the refugees in the hiding place were safe. Next Corrie faced a hearing with a Gestapo officer. Fearful, she prayed, “Lord Jesus you were once questioned too. Please show me what to do.”
During the next several days of interrogation Corrie kept her composure, and the officer even questioned her quite a bit about Jesus and the love of God. Amazingly, the man sincerely wanted to know more.
In those lonely days of confinement she found a friend in an ant that crawled in through a crack in the floor and she shared her crumbs with the little fellow. Corrie reread the gospels over and over. Soon she saw Jesus’ suffering in a whole new light. She realized that her own suffering might have a purpose for good too.
The next leg of the cruel journey took them in June 1944 to Vught Concentration Camp in southern Holland. When boarding the train Corrie saw Betsie and went to her. They were never apart again.
At Vught, the captives lived in barracks. Life was hard and punishments severe. Soon a rumor spread through camp that the Allies had invaded Europe and were heading in their direction. This gave them great hope. Those hopes started to fade as guards executed 700 male prisoners and herded the women onto trains. The Allies were getting close. In response, the Nazis rounded up the female prisoners, sending them to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Germany.
An officer questioned Corrie about Jesus and the love of God and amazingly wanted to know more
This was the only major Nazi concentration camp for women. JewishGen describes the horrific conditions:
“Life there was as shameful and difficult as in all the other concentration camps — death by starvation, beating, torture, hanging, and shooting happened daily.”
For Corrie, Betsie and the rest of the so-called “criminals,” the worst was yet to come. But the worst couldn’t steal the hope of the two sisters.
They endeavored to comfort those around them. For the Gospel of John was written in their hearts:
**Return to learn how Corrie and Betsie dealt with the horrors at Ravensbrück and how they helped to keep their ordeal from breaking themselves and others. Also discover how the lowest of vermin was an agent of saving grace.