Some of you may remember that I listed Corrie ten Boom as one of the Five People I Admire in a post earlier this year (and I reviewed her book, The Hiding Place, in a post several years ago). Corrie was 52-years-old when she was arrested for resistance work during World War II. She was sent to prison, then on to a concentration camp in Germany. And yet, after her release (due to a God-sized "clerical error"), she spent her life sharing about God's love and the healing power of forgiveness.
When I first read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, I was probably 12-years old. At that time, I never imagined that one day I would walk through Corrie's home, affectionately called the Beje, in Haarlem, Holland, and see the hiding place for myself. Yet, that's exactly what happened seven weeks ago when we were on our Europe Trip!
We took the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem and walked from the station to the Beje, which is located at Barteljorisstraat 19. This home is actually two buildings - one in front facing the Barteljorisstraat, and one behind opening into the alleyway. At some point years ago, the wall between the buildings was removed and a ship's mast was placed in the opening, around which a spiral staircase was built, from the basement to the rooftop patio.
Here's a sketch of the building from The Hiding Place.
The day we visited, there was a huge pile of construction material in front of the watch shop as the business next door was being renovated, but here's a look showing the top of the watch shop windows and the next two floors.
Down the alleyway to the left of the shop is the museum entrance.
This is the entrance the family and guests (and underground workers and Jews and young men seeking help during the war) used every day.
There's a large window just past the door that looks into the dining room. During the war, the ten Booms placed an Alpina watch sign in the window to let those in the underground know that it was ok to enter. If the sign was not in place, it warned them to keep away. Unfortunately, during the raid on the Beje, the officers discovered the sign knocked down from the windowsill. It was put back in place and several people walked into the trap and were arrested with those already in the Beje that day.
We had a reservation for the first English tour of the day, which began in the two rooms on the second floor of the front building. These rooms had been Tante Jans' rooms as shown in the sketch above. I was surprised to discover one large room instead of two; however, I learned later that the two rooms had actually been opened up into one room during the war years to make a space for a celebration when one of Corrie's nephews was released from prison. After that time, the family referred to this as the Liberation Room. Before the tour guide informed us that photos were not allowed in this area, I snapped a photo of us sitting under Father ten Boom's photo.
Luckily, we were allowed to take photos when we arrived at the top level of the back house - Corrie's bedroom where the hiding place was installed during the war.
Corrie shared this bedroom with her sister Nollie when they were growing up, and it remained her bedroom until she was taken away to prison. You can see that there's a large hole that allows visitors to step into the hiding place, however, the entrance is that small opening underneath the bottom shelf of the wardrobe.
Most of the furnishings and other items in the home are original to the ten Boom family. The sign below says "Jesus is Victor," which brought comfort to Corrie as she sat in the dining room the day of the raid on the Beje.
I have to admit that the biggest surprise for me was the size of the Beje; although it is described as being very narrow, I had envisioned it larger. So much activity and so many events occurred in these rooms, with lots of people in attendance, that I had pictured them much larger. I'm so very glad to have had the opportunity to visit this place and am even more impressed with the amount of resistance work that occurred here. Because the tours are scheduled and are limited to 20 people at a time, I really felt like I was able to get a feel for the house and see everything during the allotted time. An added bonus is the fact that the tours are free (a container for donations is available in the gift shop).
Before our trip, I re-read a couple of Corrie's books. Her first book, A Prisoner and Yet, was published in 1954. This book begins with the story of the ten Booms' work in the Dutch Underground during Holland's occupation in World War II and goes through Corrie's release and return home to the Beje. Corrie's time in Sheveningen, Vught, and Ravensbruck are related through short stories and memories of people or incidents. She shared God's love and story of salvation in all these places and lived through unimaginable hardships.
I also re-read The Hiding Place, which was published in 1971 (with John & Elizabeth Sherrill who helped tell the story in a larger, more dramatic way and included scenes and lessons from Corrie's childhood). This book reads easier, more like fiction, and is exceptionally well-written. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, are portrayed somewhat differently in this book (as opposed to A Prisoner and Yet). In this book, Betsie does most of the teaching, preaching, and leading in the concentration camps, whereas in A Prisoner and Yet, it seemed like Corrie did most of the preaching. This may just be due to differences in the writing styles and organization of Corrie's memories. However, one thing is constant - Corrie and Betsie, who had a beautiful sweet spirit, were very close and devoted to each other and their father.
Robbie and I watched The Hiding Place movie as well. The movie is a Billy Graham production and is very well done. Corrie herself comes on screen at the end of the movie, sitting in the parlor of the Beje, reminding us that "there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still."
After our trip, I read More Than a Hiding Place: The Life-Changing Experiences of Corrie ten Boom, which we purchased from the museum gift shop. This book is full of wonderful photos of the ten Boom family over the years as well as photos from the time when they were hiding Jews. It also includes a good bit of information about Corrie and her travels and speaking after the war. She continued to work well into her 80s and died on her 91st birthday in 1983.
This tour is item number 11 on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list, which actually includes two items - tour the Anne Frank House and the ten Boom Home. (You can read about our visit to the Anne Frank House HERE.) Here's a look at the completed page in my 50 Things album.
Have you visited the ten Boom home? Please share your thoughts in the comments.