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Spiritual Growth and Encouragement for Christian Women

Corrie ten Boom: A Righteous Gentile

  • Mary Ann Jeffreys Former editor for Christian History mag.
  • 1999 23 Nov
Corrie ten Boom: A Righteous Gentile

Corrie ten Boom (1893-1983) lived an inauspicious life until she was nearly 50 years old. Unmarried, she shared the upstairs of a small house in Haarlem, Holland, with her devout Dutch Reformed family. Downstairs was the family watch shop where she worked, becoming Holland's first licensed female watchmaker. She led Christian clubs for teen-age girls and one for mentally handicapped young people.

When German soldiers invaded Holland in May, 1940, the whole ten Boom family got involved in the underground work of hiding Dutch Jews in their home, which was 100 yards from the police station. Corrie knew everyone in Haarlem and fearlessly asked people to help get fake identifications and extra food ration cards for the Jews in the family "hiding place."

Eventually, though, the ten Booms were betrayed by a neighbor. Corrie and her sister Betsie were interned in Ravensbruck concentration camp, "the notorious women's death camp." Their father and brother, Willem, died. Despite the hell-hole "living" conditions, Corrie's faith and joy encouraged the other prisoners. She led "clandestine Bible study groups for an ever-growing group of believers, and Barracks 28 became known throughout the camp as 'the crazy place, where they hope.' " She and Betsie even thanked God for the fleas in their cell that kept the guards from bothering them.

Betsie died in the camp. Through a clerical error, Corrie was released just days before all the women her age were to be killed. She returned to Holland and began fulfilling her promise to God to tell her story. Speaking invitations poured in, eventually leading Corrie to speak in 60 countries. Her book, The Hiding Place, became a best-seller. You can read a shortened version online.

She always spoke for reconciliation between enemies. Once, her message was tested when she met a former SS guard from Ravensbruck concentration camp who begged her forgiveness. After hesitating, then praying, "Jesus, help me!" she shook the man's hand and forgave him. To fulfill a prophecy God had given through Betsie, Corrie opened rehabilitation homes in Germany for Holocaust victims and Nazi survivors.

In 1968, the State of Israel honored Corrie for her courage and sacrifice on behalf of the Jews by inviting her to plant a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Holocaust Memorial near Jerusalem. Her name appears on a plaque by the tree. She died on her 91st birthday, in 1983.