The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is a shockingly moving, beautifully inspiring, hopeful book. As I read it, I thought, “God, these are some of the best of your children. Right here in 1940s Holland, some of the best people lived and died in service to others.” And then I cried. Because it was so moving.
When Holland’s occupied by the Germans and swept into World War II, its people are swept along with it. A few brave individuals fight against the tide to save their friends and neighbors and perfect strangers from the Nazis. Corrie Ten Boom—a 52-year-old spinster and watchmaker—is an unlikely member of the underground. But she, along with her sister and venerable father, shelter Jews and save lives. Unfortunately, no safe house is safe forever, and the Gestapo are looking for her.
As I read this book, I asked myself if I would have had the courage and love—not just for those hunted Jews, but for the hunters as well—that Corrie, Betsy, and Casper had.
The last time I visited Haarlem (via books), I was reading The Black Tulip, and I got a different impression—though not necessarily a wrong one—of Haarlem as a somewhat stuck up, flower-struck city. Of course, the difference in the time periods is about 275 years and things change. This time, I got an impression of a city steeped in religion and faith, in friendships and community. Somehow, I think both impressions are right.
Corrie is such a feisty lady, full of grit and gumption, and yes, vulnerability. She’s compassionate and brave, but even after all she’s sacrificed, or maybe because of it, she still has to struggle with feelings of anger and selfishness. She was so real.
Betsy is an angel, the type of person who feels compassion for her tormentors and seeks to teach the Nazis love instead of hate. She reminds me of my own mom, actually.
Then there’s the venerable Casper, the patriarch of the family who is guileless, who’s kind, who refuses to do stop helping regardless of the personal cost.
These three real people touched me so deeply. Their actions, their thoughts, their hope. They are Christian in the truest sense of the word: nonjudgmental, inclusive, loving. Sometimes when I see so much hate, I remind myself of the good people. They existed then; they exist now.
You can’t improve on “true story,” especially when it has so many elements of an epic novel: suspense, war, underground resistance, love, sacrifice, suffering, refinement, charity. The last part might be the most moving part when Corrie chooses love over hate. “Love your neighbor” is an easy commandment to follow, “love your enemies” not so much. “Do good to them who despitefully use you and persecute you” even less. But somehow these people manage it. Maybe we all can.
The writing is so hopeful, so…what’s a word for something that inspires you, pushes you, pulls you, to be a little bit better, a little bit more godly and a little bit more human? That word. The writing is that word.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”
“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.”
“Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”
“Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do. ”
You’ll really just have to read it to get all the good nuggets of wisdom and hope it has to offer.
I don’t know what I can say now that I haven’t said before. This might be my favorite true World War II book so far. And that’s saying a lot. I’ve read a lot of histories and memoirs, but this is…pure magic, pure beauty: Suffering humans who find it within themselves to love each other, especially those others that are causing their torment.
Could it be anything else?