Since the Ten Booms were not Jewish, the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands did not present a direct threat to them as a family. Recognizing God’s love for their Jewish friends and neighbors, the family was propelled to care for these innocent lives threatened by the powers of evil. Later on, when the family came to the attention of the local officials, a young officer told Casper he was too old for a work camp and to return home and “behave himself”—to which he replied, “Young man, if you leave me here today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who needs help.”
Public apologies do not come easily, especially from heads of state. So, when the Netherlands’ Prime Minster Rutte delivered a historic apology at an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz (January 27, 1945), many paid attention. The Prime Minister highlighted the tragic truth that before the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, approximately 140,000 Jews were living in the country, and afterward only 38,000 remained. Rutte acknowledged that those in leadership simply did not do enough to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors, and in sum apologized for not putting up more of a fight.
However, there were those who did stand up to the evil in their midst. An unsuspecting group of Christian freedom fighters opened their doors, smuggled ration cards, built trap doors, and risked their lives for the sake of their persecuted neighbors. Casper Ten Boom (age 83), and his two daughters Corrie (age 50) and Betsie (age 57), transformed their home into a hiding place and helped established an 80-person resistance movement that resulted in the saving of over 800 Jews during the German occupation. Last year, while on Sabbatical in the Netherlands, my family and I were able to walk through the Ten Booms’ home and experience afresh the amazing life and ministry of Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom. Much of their life and legacy comes to us through the lifelong publishing and speaking ministry of youngest daughter Corrie (1892-1983). While the Ten Booms’ work was underground, their story should not be.
A House with Open Doors
The Ten Booms lived in a narrow multi-story house just off the main square in Haarlem, where their father Casper ran a shop as the town watchmaker. Corrie was a bright young woman who eventually learned to read English, French, German, Hebrew and Greek, and at the age of 32 became the nation’s first licensed watchmaker.