Forgiveness: Clemency in Action

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The Hiding Place
By Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John Sherrill
Chosen Books, 273 pp., $12.99

At age seventy-nine Corrie ten Boom wrote her 8th book, a biography co-written with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, entitled The Hiding Place. She shares her life from ages six through fifty-seven. It also includes an extensive timeline with a prologue section providing information spanning from 1837 when her Grandfather, Willem ten Boom, acquired the shop, and later purchased it with the house, to her death upon her ninety-first birthday in 1983.

Ms. ten Boom until age forty-nine lived an unremarkable life, excluding her achievement of Holland’s first licensed female watchmaker. She remained unmarried, stayed in the family home, worked in the family business, was involved with her church (Dutch Reformed), took in missionary children, and organized Christian girls’ clubs. She experienced much suffering, through family members’ illnesses and deaths, but home remained a place of love through prayer, work, and charity both inside and outside the house.

In 1941 about eighteen months after the Nazis invade Holland, Corrie located a safe house for a Jewish neighbor. Five months later, her family opened their home to Jews, most quickly relocated to safer locations, but some stayed longer. In addition their family home also provided lodging for resistance workers. They build a hiding room for impromptu raids. It’s estimated the ten Boom family saved 800 Jews’ lives and protected many of the Dutch underground.

Things changed February 28, 1944. Their raided house offered safety for their six current guests who fled to the hiding room. The family, first detained in their local jail, moved to the Scheveningen prison, then to the Vught Concentration Camp, and ultimately to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Corrie lived; most of her family didn’t, either dying while in captivity or soon after release due to illness acquired during incarceration.

Her biography is balanced and never sensational; violence, difficulties, and fear don’t headline her experience. She’s honest and tempered by years of telling her family’s story. The radical sections are those where she inwardly resists the temptation to hate and pushes herself to love. Betsie, her sickly, older by six years, sister reminds her “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.” (pg. 220) It’s Betsie’s faith, hope, and love propels them through harrowing experiences. Later as their situation deteriorates Corrie realizes Betsie meant tell everyone – the former Nazis, the complicit and non-complicit Germans, the Jews, the Christians, even the Dutch collaborators who caused harm and were shunned after the war – everyone needed and deserved healing.

Ms. ten Boom’s The Hiding Place refers to the room but also the Psalm 119:114, “ You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” Her reaction to her time of darkness offers inspiration for all sojourners.

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