Corrie Ten Boom Story on Forgiving

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

 

Source: Family Life Education

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Schvengenin

They were taken to The Hague, which was rumoured to be the location of the Gestapo headquarters in Holland. The chief interrogator there seem shocked that Caspar had been arrested.

I’d like to send you home, old fellow. I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble.
– Gestapo chief

If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.
– Caspar

Corrie tried to free the others of blame by admitting to being the ‘ringleader’. It failed and many of the group were moved to prison.

They arrived at Schvengenin Prison, where the ten Boom family were separated. Corrie was sent to a cell shared with three other prisoners. But, after two weeks, she was taken to a doctor, and then to solitary confinement, probably due to illness.

On 20 April, 1944 (Hitler’s birthday), all of the prison guards were absent at a party. The women began to call out to each other through the food holes in their doors, passing names left and right down the corridor. They tried to send messages and find out about other prisoners. Corrie heard rumours of a prospective Allied invasion of Europe, that Nollie had been released more than a month before, and that Betsie was still alive, though in prison. Peter, Pickwick and Willem had all been released as well. There was no word of Caspar.

Soon afterwards, Corrie received a letter and a package from Nollie, containing some of the items from Corrie’s prison bag and the news that Caspar ten Boom had died 10 days after his arrest. Corrie added another date to her list scratched on the wall – ‘Father released’.

Corrie noticed that the handwriting on the envelope was slanting up towards the stamp in an unusual way. Upon investigation, Corrie found that there was a message hidden under the stamp: ‘All the watches in your closet are safe’. Corrie knew that those hidden in the secret room were still safe.

Late in May, 1944, Corrie was finally interrogated. She was given a list of names to see if she could identify any of them. She realised, for the first time, the value of the ubiquitous Smit, because she knew none of the names, and could not give away any signal of recognition. It became clear to her that the Gestapo believed that the Beje had been the headquarters of raids on food ration offices, while Corrie knew nothing beyond her own cards.

Over three successive mornings Lieutenant Rahms gave up the pretence of questioning her, telling her of his family, and asking about her pre-war life in Holland. At a later date, he took Corrie to the reading of her father’s will. There she was reunited with her family, and learned that Kik had been caught and sent on a prison train… probably to Germany. She was also told that the local police chief had arranged for a couple of sympathetic officers to be assigned to surveillance duties of the Beje; and they had sent the Jews to new hiding places. Before she left, Nollie gave Corrie a bible in a pouch that could be hung round her neck.

Some time after this, an order was given to the prisoners to prepare for an evacuation. Spotting Betsie in the crowd waiting to board the train, Corrie forced her way towards her. The four months in Schvengenin had been their only time apart in 53 years, and Corrie felt more confident besides Betsie.

They arrived at Vught, a Concentration Camp for political prisoners, where they were given forms, which another prisoner told them meant they were to be released. Instead, they were sent into the main camp. Corrie was shaken by this disappointment, but Betsie saw it as a chance to share God’s word.

ten boom house

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The Beje

Cornelia (Corrie) Arnolda Johanna ten Boom was born on 15 April, 1892, the youngest of four children. The others were Willem, Betsie, and Nollie. Her devoutly Christian family lived with three of Corrie’s aunts in a house called the ‘Beje’, which was situated above her father’s watch shop in Haarlem, the Netherlands. But, by the time the war began, only she, Betsie, and their father, Caspar, remained in the Beje. Corrie followed her father into the watch making business, becoming the first female horologist in Haarlem.

The Hiding Place is the story of the ten Boom family during World War II. It is Corrie’s personal memoir of the events that she experienced. And it is also a personal statement of her faith as a Christian.

The story of The Hiding Place opens in 1937 with the 100th birthday of the watch shop. This introduces the reader to all the major characters of the story: the whole ten Boom family, as well as ‘Oom’ Hermann Sluring (known as Pickwick), a wealthy friend of the family. At this party Corrie received the first hint of her future, when Willem (who had been preaching of the dangers of Nazism as early as 1927) arrived at the party with a Jew, who had just escaped from Germany.

ten boom house

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Dachau Concentration Camp

The Dachau concentration camp was the first regular concentration camp established by the Nazis in March 1933.

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The Hiding Place in the Corrie Ten Boom Museum

Much of Corrie’s time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers.

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Continue the ten Boom family’s 100-year tradition of prayer for the peace of Jerusalem

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” ― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place http://www.tenboom.org

Corrie ten Boom was given a gift from God, the last verse from Psalm 91, while she was in solitary confinement: “And with long life shall I satisfy you.”

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