Corrie ten Boom: Prison Letters Were Rare Lifeline

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What were the Corrie ten Boom prison letters about? Was she able to hear word of her family and the Jews hiding in her home?

For Corrie ten Boom, prison letters were not a common thing. Read more about Corrie ten Boom, prison letters, and Scheveningen.

Corrie ten Boom’s Prison Letters

After being processed and registered by the Gestapo, the family was transported to the federal prison at Scheveningen. First, the female prisoners were separated from the men, and then Corrie was separated from her sisters. Corrie was at last placed in a cell with several other women. She made her way to a filthy cot, where she managed to fall asleep sick, hungry, and miserable. 

The boredom and lack of stimulation in the prison was unbearable. The women spent their days entirely within the cramped walls of the cell, only interrupted by the delivery of meager and barely edible portions of food. At this point for Corrie ten Boom, prison letters were not available.

After talking with her cellmates, Corrie was dismayed to discover that several of the women had been imprisoned for as long as three years in the cell. While Corrie languished, she tried to block out the thought of what had become of the Jews in the hiding place. She couldn’t bear to confront the idea that they had been captured.

Solitary

Two nights later, the guards called Corrie to come out of the cell. She was brought deeper and deeper into the prison, where she was finally escorted into a cell. There were no other inmates with her. She had been placed in solitary confinement.

The conditions were even worse than in her first cell. The cot was revolting, and it was clear that someone had recently vomited on it. She wondered why she had been put in solitary. Had they found out about the contraband the nurse had smuggled in for her? Had the Jews in the hiding place been found? How long would she be in here?

The days became a monotonous hell. The fever with which she had entered Scheveningen grew worse under these conditions. The only care she received was from a medical trustee who would deliver her some mysterious yellow medicine administered from a filthy bottle. In all these interactions, Corrie begged for word of her family, especially her father, but no one would share information with her. 

Brief Comforts: Corrie ten Boom, Prison Letters, and a Window

Corrie’s only source of comfort was a small window, from which she could see a small piece of sky. Occasionally, when the wind blew the right way, she could hear the sea. Gradually, her health returned, despite the inhumane conditions and grossly inadequate medical care. The Gospels provided her with the spiritual nourishment she needed, along with Corrie ten Boom’s prison letters.

In these agonizing circumstances, Corrie was reminded of Christ’s suffering. She remembered that Jesus had also suffered loss and defeat, far worse than what she and her group and that Beje had suffered—but He had ultimately triumphed and redeemed all mankind. She took comfort in this knowledge, and saw that her faith would be rewarded—for Christ’s love would conquer all.

Corrie kept track of time by using an improvised knife (made from a corset pin she had sharpened against the cement floor) to scratch a calendar on the wall of her cell. On April 15, 1944, a month after entering solitary confinement, Corrie marked her 52nd birthday.

Two days later, on April 17, Corrie was taken to the shower room to bathe for the first time in weeks. There, to her delight, were other women, brought there for the same purpose. Although she did not see her sisters, she rejoiced to experience the company of others for the first time in over a month. She resolved that, the next time she was brought out to shower, she would bring three of her four Gospels, to share God’s love and glory with her fellow prisoners.

On April 20, 1944, Corrie heard her fellow inmates shouting up and down the cell blocks. This was unusual, as the guards would typically never allow such a blatant act of disorder and insubordination. But, as she learned, it was Hitler’s birthday, which meant that most of the guards were away at a celebration honoring the Fuhrer

Arriving for Corrie ten Boom, prison letters gave her essential information. She received a care package from Nollie, consisting of a sweater, cookies, vitamins, a needle-and-thread, and a bright red towel.

Corrie ten Boom’s prison letter was actually a secret note, written behind the postage stamp. It said, simply, “All the watches in your closet are safe.” This was code—it meant that all six Jews had safely escaped from the Beje. This was blessed news for Corrie, showing her that the risks she had taken and the suffering she and Betsie were enduring had not been in vain after all. For Corrie ten Boom, prison letters offered hope.

Corrie ten Boom: Prison Letters Were Rare Lifeline

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Corrie ten Boom's "The Hiding Place" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Hiding Place summary:

  • Why devout Christian Corrie ten Boom decided to stand up to the Nazi occupation
  • How ten Boom and the Jewish neighbors she was hiding were caught
  • How ten Boom survived the concentration camp and left with even stronger faith

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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