From time to time, Word Slingers presents reviews of new books authored by Christians. Every now and then, we publish reviews of older books and classics. I want to offer a review of the latter, The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom.
By way of summary, The Hiding Place tells the dramatic real-life story of a Christian family living in Holland during the Nazi invasion in World War II and how three of those family members—Corrie, her sister Betsie and their father Casper—along with a network of others, helped hide Jews from the grasp of the Nazis.
The story relays of the consequences of their actions and how they were helped by God’s grace during a time of terrible suffering. While many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, are already familiar with the name of Corrie Ten Boom, many do not know her full biography, which is told in an unforgettable manner in The Hiding Place, a book published in 1971 that was later made into a movie.
Those who are not familiar with the story may be familiar with popular quotes from the book, including:
- “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
- “Our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t run out ahead of him.”
- “When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
- “Perhaps only when human effort has done its best and failed, (will) God’s power alone be free to work.”
Now I want to talk more about the story and glean some lessons (Fair warning: plot spoilers ahead). The story of the ten Boom family is one of extreme risk, suffering and eternal glory. It is the true tale of doing the right thing no matter the cost.
There were many living in Europe and places like Holland who turned a blind eye to the Nazi menace and the unparalleled mistreatment of Jews and others during these dark days. There were thousands of others who took an active part in doing the evil.
In The Hiding Place, we see a sparkling example of those who courageously counter-acted the evil and risked their own well-being and safety in the process. These people now hold a place of honor that can never be diminished.
For you see, it was not only great and heroic leaders like Winston Churchill who saw Hitler and the Nazis for the evil they were and did something about it; it was the little people too, like Corrie and Betsie.
The ten Boom family were Dutch Reformed Christians living a quiet life, owning and operating a watch repair shop. Prior to the Nazi invasion, the ten Booms helped serve their neighbors in need, all in the Name of Christ, and developed a strong Christian fellowship and a reputation for good in the community. They likely developed habits of prayer and Scripture reading that would serve them in their greatest hour of darkness.
When the Nazi occupation came, the ten Booms discovered and joined an underground network of people helping Jewish people. They themselves housed Jews in their home and hid them at critical moments, in a secret room. One of the people who came to Corrie for help was really planning to betray the ten Booms. In helping this man, Corrie, Betsie, Casper and many others were found out, arrested and imprisoned.
In the pages of The Hiding Place, we are confronted with a front-row seat to the evils and horrors of Nazi imprisonment. Casper would die in prison shortly after his arrest, while Corrie and Betsie suffered for months on end, ultimately ending up in the infamous concentration camp of Ravensbruck.
At this death camp, Betsie loses her life and Corrie, after horrible suffering, is released. From the time of their initial capture to Corrie’s miraculous release, we see the light of Christ shine amid darkness and the way Christians can be salt and light.
From leading worship services in their barracks at the concentration camp to forgiving their Nazi tormentors, the love of Christ shines through the lives of Corrie and to an even greater degree Betsie. While Corrie is the better known of the sisters, it was Betsie who was often the greater spiritual leader of the family.
In one scene, we see a Nazi matron beating a prisoner. Corrie says something to the effect of “Oh, that poor woman.” Betsie replies, “I know. Let’s pray that God will forgive her.” Corrie, like any of us, sympathized with the one being beaten while Betsie had compassion on the evil doer who may face everlasting separation from God.
The question has often been asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In the life and example of Corrie ten Boom and her family, we do not get our “why?” answered. What we get is something more, and that is the startling realization of what God can do amid the greatest of evils and suffering, for His glory and the betterment of people, for all time and eternity.