For her efforts to hide Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" on December 12, 1967. In resisting Nazi persecution, ten Boom acted in concert with her religious beliefs, her family experience, and the Dutch resistance. Her defiance led to imprisonment, internment in a concentration camp, and loss of family members who died from maltreatment while in German custody.
The ten Boom family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church, which protested Nazi persecution of Jews as an injustice to fellow human beings and an affront to divine authority. In her autobiography, ten Boom repeatedly cited religious motivations for hiding Jews, particularly her family's strong belief in a basic tenet of their religion: the equality of all human beings before God. Their religious activities had also brought the family a history of personal connections to the Jewish community. Corrie's grandfather had supported efforts to improve Christian-Jewish relations in the nineteenth century. Her brother Willem, a Dutch Reformed minister assigned to convert Jews, studied antisemitism and ran a nursing home for elderly of all faiths. In the late 1930s that nursing home became a refuge for Jews fleeing from Germany.
After World War II began, members of the ten Boom family became involved in resistance efforts. Two nephews worked in resistance cells. Various family members sheltered young men sought by the Nazis for forced labor and assisted Jews in contacting persons willing to hide them. Corrie became directly involved in these efforts when, along with her father and sister Betsie, she decided to hide Jews in the family home in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Using her job as a watchmaker in her father's shop as a cover, Corrie built contacts with resistance workers, who assisted her in procuring ration books and building a hiding place in the family home.
Six people, among them both Jews and resistance workers, hid in this hiding place when the Gestapo (German secret state police) raided the house on February 28, 1944. Those in hiding remained undiscovered. Several days after the raid resistance workers transferred them to other locations. In the meantime, however, the Gestapo had arrested Corrie ten Boom, her father, her brother and two sisters, and other family members. In addition, the Gestapo arrested several resistance workers who had unwittingly entered the house during the raid, as well as many family acquaintances who had been attending a prayer meeting in the living room. Altogether, the Gestapo arrested some 30 people in the ten Boom family home that day.
After holding them briefly in the penitentiary in Scheveningen, a seaside town close to The Hague, the Gestapo released all but three of the ten Boom family members. Corrie ten Boom, her older sister Betsie, and her father Casper remained in prison. Casper ten Boom became sick in prison and died in a hospital corridor only ten days after the arrest. The sisters remained in the Scheveningen prison until June 1944, when officials transferred them to an internment camp at Vught, in the Netherlands. In September 1944, the Nazis deported Corrie and Betsie ten Boom to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. In Ravensbrück, the sisters managed to stay together until Betsie died that December.
The camp administration released Corrie ten Boom in late December 1944. Along with other released prisoners, she traveled by train to Berlin, where she arrived on January 1, 1945. From Berlin, ten Boom journeyed across Germany by train until she reached the Netherlands, where she reunited with surviving members of her family.
After the war, ten Boom advocated reconciliation as a means for overcoming the psychological scars left by the Nazi occupation. She later traveled the world as an evangelist, motivational speaker, and social critic, referring to her experiences in Ravensbrück as she offered solace to prisoners and protested the Vietnam War.
Series: Righteous Among the Nations
Critical Thinking Questions
- What pressures and motivations may have influenced the decisions of ten Boom?
- Are these factors unique to this history or universal?
- How can societies, communities, and individuals reinforce and strengthen the willingness to stand up for others?