Corrie’s number was called by the guards. Stepping forward, she half expected to be “taken to the showers,” but, she was given a hat, coat, shoes, and her release papers! Later she discovered that her release had been due to a “clerical error” and that the next week, all the women of her age (over 50) were sent to the gas chambers. Her freedom was clearly a miracle of God. While in prison, Betsie and Corrie had discussed that whenever they were released, they must help others and tell what they had learned in prison. In the following decades, Corrie did just that.
on May 5, 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and for five days the might of the Wehrmacht unleashed its fury, forcing the Dutch to surrender. Drastic changes came to the Netherlands. Persecution came especially upon the Jews. Their houses and businesses were raided, and 100,000 Dutch Jews were eventually placed in concentration camps.
The ten Boom family in Harlem responded to the crisis with Christian compassion and courage. The home of Casper and Cornelia ten Boom had long been a haven of Christian mercy and love. As Casper and Cornelia raised their four children, daily Bible reading and prayer was as much a part of daily life as eating and sleeping. In addition to their own children, the ten Booms had cared for the children of missionaries serving in Indonesia, who were separated from their parents for years. Older relatives also lived with the family. The house the ten Booms lived in was a tall, narrow Dutch house built in the 1600s. The watch shop Casper and the family ran was on the ground floor, with the living quarters above. Caring for so many people required more space, so the family bought the older house next door (built in the 1400s) and combined the two into one large, commodious dwelling.
A Place of Refuge
The youngest of the ten Boom children, born in 1892 and named Cornelia after her mother, was called Corrie. Corrie followed her parents’ example of helping others and held Bible studies for local young people and even had special meetings for the mentally handicapped youth, bringing the love of Christ and the Bible to them as well. When a young man she had hoped to marry chose another for his wife, Corrie was deeply wounded, but she took her wounded heart to Jesus, basked in his love and surrendered her life to His purposes and plan. After Corrie’s mother died in 1921, Corrie began helping her father more in the watch shop. She went to Switzerland to take a course in watchmaking and became the first licensed woman watchmaker in Holland.
Under Nazi occupation, the ten Boom home became a place of refuge for many Jews as well as members of the Dutch Underground Resistance, even though the police station was nearby. Corrie’s bedroom in the house was at the top of a long flight of stairs and far away from the front door. The Dutch Resistance helped build a secret hiding place behind the wall of Corrie’s bedroom where up to six people could hide at a time. Buzzers were installed which could be used to alert the refugees of the need to go into hiding, and drills were held to practice the procedure. A secret code was developed. If someone called to say, “I have a watch needing repair,” the ten Booms knew there was someone arriving who needed a hiding place. Ration cards were issued for food, and the ten Boom household received three cards – for Casper, Corrie, and her sister Betsie. But with all the extra people to care for, more were needed. A father of one of the disabled children Corrie had worked with was a civil servant in charge of the ration cards. Corrie went to him and boldly asked for 100 ration cards – and received them!