Corrie ten Boom was a remarkably brave woman who helped save the lives of countless Jews in World War II.
The ten Boom family were Christian, and ran a watch repair business in the town of Haarlem, in the Netherlands. Though a larger family, by the 1940’s it was just Corrie, her father Casper, and her sister Betsie living in the family home.
Corrie’s mother Cornelia died in 1921 and her brother Willem and sister Nollie had already moved out of the house.
The Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and in 1942 the ten Booms were already active members of the Dutch underground resistance. Corrie used her connections from decades of charity work to appeal to others, even procuring 100 ration cards to pass along to persecuted Jews.
Eventually, the ten Booms began hiding Jews in their actual home. The numbers varied from time to time, based on need. It was decided that a secret hiding spot was needed in case the Nazis ever searched the home, and the family set out to have one installed.
Helpers gradually snuck in building materials like bricks smuggled in briefcases. Over time, a tiny space was built behind a fake wall that could just fit six people standing up. The ten Booms even installed a buzzer system, so that those in hiding could be alerted to scurry behind the wall.
Though a tense time, Corrie did what she could to keep spirits up. She provided kosher meals for the Jewish guests and helped them keep Shabbat. Deeply religious themselves, the ten Booms viewed their Jewish friends as God’s chosen people and treated them with utmost respect.
When a Jewish woman showed up on their doorstep one night, her husband already arrested and fearful to return home and be arrested herself, Casper ten Boom said, “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.”
The home was raided in February of 1944, after a spy posing as a man looking for Corrie’s help turned the family in. Every member of the ten Boom clan was arrested, but six Jews living at the home at the time were able to hide in the safety space.
All but one of the Jews the ten Booms helped hide would survive the war.
The ten Booms were sent to Scheveningren prison. Casper, who was an octogenarian by that point, was offered release due to his age. He refused, preferring to stay on with his children and grandchildren. He died 10 days later.
Nollie and Willem, along with nephew Peter, were released quickly, but Corrie and Betsie were sent to the Vught political concentration camp. It was a reportedly mild camp, but the worst for the two sisters was still to come.
Corrie was incredibly close with her siblings, particularly Betsie, who was also unmarried. The two women were the only ones of the family to be ultimately sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany after Dutch imprisonment.
At Ravensbruck, a harsh labor camp, Betsie is said to have acted as a bright light, sharing bible stories and keeping her faith. Still, she became crucially ill, eventually dying at the camp.
Following the war, Corrie returned to the Netherlands and set up rehabilitation centers. She traveled extensively and wrote prolifically, sharing her story and message.
In 1971, her book “The Hiding Place” told the tale of the ten Boom’s efforts to save the Jews of their town. The book was turned into a film in 1975.
Corrie passed away on April 15, 1983, her birthday, at the age of 91. She was named Righteous Among the Nations, Yad Vashem’s honorific for gentiles who helped save Jewish life during the Holocaust.