Ten Boom, Corrie
Holocaust survivor...a woman who understood the power of love over hateby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
"It is not my ability, but my response to God's ability, that counts."1
Corrie Ten Boom not only spoke these words, she lived them, and oh, how she lived them.
She was born Cornelius Johanna Arnolda ten Boom on April 15th 1892, she was the youngest of four children belonging to Casper and Cornelia ten Boom. Corrie led a normal, happy childhood in the small town of Haarlam, Holland. Corrie remembered accepting Christ into her heart at a young age. "When I was about five years old, then I asked Jesus to come into my heart. And He came. He didn't say you are too young. He came."1
Corrie and her eldest sister Betsie remained single their entire lives. After their mother died and their two other siblings married and moved away, the sisters fell into a comfortable routine where Betsie kept up the household and Corrie went to work with their father in his watchmaking and repair shop. Corrie became the first licensed female watchmaker in Holland 1
Thanks to the expert tutalage given to her by her father, who was lovingly known by all as "Opa". Corrie's father not only taught her how to be a skilled watchmaker, he also taught her to trust her life in the hands of the Maker of the universe, and to see the world through His eyes, eyes full of love from a heart that ached for the people that did not know that love.
When German Nazi soldiers invaded Holland in May of 1940, Corrie got on her knees and gave God her worries. For a few months they were able to carry on business as usual, but when Jewish customers didn't show up to get their watches, letters sent to Jewish suppliers returned marked with an "Address Unknown" and local Jews simply disappeared, Corrie and her family began to discuss how they could help the Jews whom they believed were God's chosen people. Later, Corrie would recall watching with her father as Jews were loaded into a truck by German soldiers, as the truck drove away her father said "I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God's eye."1
For Corrie, there was no question of whether or not she would risk herself and her family to help the Jews. She was led by her father's example in this. Corrie asked a visiting pastor if he could take in a Jewish baby that the ten Booms had in the house at the time, he replied "No, definitely not. We could lose our lives for that child." Corrie's father standing nearby asked Corrie to give him the child. After gazing into the sweet innocence of the baby's face, Corrie's father said "You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family."1
The Beje as their home was called soon became a hub for the underground movement to hide Jews until they could escape the country. On Febuary 28, 1944 Corrie and her family were arrested after nearly two years of foiling the Germans. There were six people hiding in the secret room at the time of their arrest. So well was the room hidden that the Gestaopo never did discover it and the people hiding in it eventually made it to safety. For the people that hid in the the secret room that day, hope was still in sight, for Corrie and her family who unflinchingly refused to betray the location of the room, hell was just beginning.
Corrie was taken to a prison in Scheveningen, along with her father, her sister Betsie and her brother Willem. Corrie's beloved father died in prison ten days after his arrest. Corrie spent the following months of prison life sustaining herself with the words of life she found in her tiny Bible, secretly given to her by a friendly nurse during an examination. In June of 1944, Corrie and her sister Betsie were moved to Vught, a labor camp in southern Holland. Conditions at the labour camp were awful, but Corrie was thankful that they had not been sent to Germany. She was also thankful that she was able to be with her sister and around people rather than in solitary confinement as she had been in Scheveningen. Two months after arriving at Vught, Corrie was transferred to her worst nightmare: the notoriously infamous German concentration camp: Ravensbruck. If what Corrie and Betsie had faced before was in any way challenging, it was nothing compared to what they would go through at Ravensbruck. Corrie's one thought was how she could smuggle her Bible into the camp. She prayed that God would somehow make her invisible when it came her turn to be searched. Corrie would later relate with a shining face how God answered her prayer with a miracle! She was able to walk right by the guards without being touched. 2
Corrie was put into a cell with her sister Betsie. Her worry now was that the guards would see the Bible and take it away from them, the two sister's only source of hope and comfort. The place was so infested with fleas that the sisters could not move without instantly being covered with the bugs. Betsie told Corrie that they should thank God for the fleas, Corrie wasn't sure she could do this, but she and Betsie bowed their heads and thanked God for even the fleas. Weeks later, Corrie was struck by the blessing that came for her obediene to thank God in all circumstances; Betsie had heard a supervisor say she wouldn't step through the door of their cell because of all the fleas, and neither would the guards. It was because of the fleas that Corrie and Betsie were able to continue to keep their Bible without the guards finding it.
Corrie endured all the cruelities inflicted upon her bravely, the ones she could not bear were the ones inflicted on her already weak sister. Betsie greeted each day and each trial with the same sweet smile, rejoicing in the fact that she could share Jesus' love with her fellow prisoners. Corrie did everything in her power to help her dying sister, but the horrible conditions, rampid filth and piercing cold overtook her. Before she died, Betsie said something to Corrie that would stay with her for the rest of her life "[we]...must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here."1
Betsie was not ever able to leave the camp and tell people, but her words still made it to the world through her sister Corrie.
Two days after her sister died, Corrie was released. She would later discover that her release was an "administrative error". One week after her release all of the women in her age group were sent to the gas chambers. Only Corrie knew that there was no error, God makes no errors.
Corrie took a few months to recover, and then she launched right into her ministry of caring for the disabled and hurting ex-prisoners. Corrie would eventually author ten books about her life, one of which was made into a motion film, "The Hiding Place".1
Corrie passed away on her ninety-first birthday, April 15, 1983. She left behind an incredible legacy of lives touched and changed by her powerful story of forgiveness for the ones who had wronged her beyond belief. To the day she died, Corrie never sought psychological help, or required special time to heal from her horrors. She saw herself as one that needed to spread healing, not seek it. She was approached by a former Ravensbruck guard and asked if she could forgive him. Every human part of her cried out against such an act, but her heart was filled with a supernatural love, grasping his hand she cried "I forgive you brother! With all my heart!"1
Truly, this was something that Corrie could never have done on her own ability, but only with the ability of God working through her.