Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom's clockmaker father traveled by train from Harlem to Amsterdam once a week to "get the time" from the naval observatory. He faithfully brought the official time back to his clock shop, where his daughters learned from him to respect truth, tolerate people of many faiths, and give to those in need, virtues that served them well when their country was overrun with Nazis in World War II. She told their story in her now classic spiritual memoir The Hiding Place.

Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were in their forties and living with their aging father when the German army invaded the Netherlands in 1940. The family had recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the clock shop, an event that attracted Harlem's Christians and Jews, who had long lived in peace. The family was distressed when the Nazis began restricting and arresting their Jewish neighbors. Learning of her brother's ties to the Dutch Resistance, the sisters joined and began harboring Jews in their home, a violation of Nazi rules for which they and their father were eventually arrested.

In her book, ten Boom split the family story rather equally into its time of refugee work and its time in jails and concentration camps. Throughout she focused as much on her family, their guests, fellow prisoners, Nazis, and Dutch collaborators as on her own conduct. She found many people to admire and, at the insistence of her sister Betsie, sought to understand their oppressors, not condemn them. Many of the episodes recounted show how the sisters used their time of imprisonment as an opportunity to spread their faith.

Seventy years after the events, ten Boom's classic memoir still resonates and can encourage people facing injustice. Luckily for us, it is still easily found in bookstores and libraries.

Ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1963. 218p.

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