Strength Through God Helped Corrie ten Boom Survive

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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How did Corrie ten Boom find strength through God? In what ways did her faith help her while she was at Ravensbruck extermination camp?

Corrie ten Boom was known for her religion. She endured harsh experiences by drawing on strength through God. See how she found miracles and strength through God in unlikely places.

Unexpected Miracles Offer Strength Through God

Corrie noticed that during these clandestine prayer sessions, the guards never seemed to wander near Barracks 28. Everyone was grateful for this, as anyone carrying on Bible readings would have been either sent to the feared punishment barracks or possibly executed right on the spot. But the guards always seemed to stay away—almost as though some benevolent, divine force was protecting the congregants of Barracks 28. Corrie saw the protective strength from God.

There were other miracles. Corrie’s Davitamon bottle, containing medicinal oil, never seemed to run dry. Whenever Betsie or any of the other ailing women needed a drop, more always seemed to be there. Betsie, unable to explain the seemingly inexhaustible supply of oil, told Corrie it was a gift from God who loved them. One day, a prisoner arrived with an even greater bounty—a bottle of yeast compound vitamins that would provide the prisoners with life-saving nutrients to supplement their starvation diet.

But the brutal conditions were still taking their toll on Betsie, miracles or no miracles. All throughout November, Betsie grew sicker and weaker, with her fever continuing to rise. Finally, when her temperature reached 104 degrees, Betsie was admitted to the camp hospital.

Seeing Purpose in Everything

Corrie missed Betsie terribly after she was sent to the hospital. She had to see Betsie. One of her fellow inmates told her that there was a window in the hospital’s latrine that never fully shut. It was possible to get into the building through this window. As the guards would never let her actually visit Betsie, this was Corrie’s only chance of catching a glimpse of her sister. 

Corrie made it to the window and wriggled her way into the filthy latrine, which featured rows of overfilled, overflowing toilets. The stench made Corrie gag. But there was something far worse than this inside. Against the wall, there was a pile of emaciated corpses, their dead, unblinking eyes staring at the ceiling. Corrie ran from the room in horror. She eventually found her way to Betsie. Corrie noticed that her sister’s condition did seem to have improved somewhat, even if it was just the result of a brief break from hard labor (there certainly wasn’t any serious medical treatment being offered at the hospital).

Three days later, Betsie returned to Barracks 28. She was no longer assigned to hard labor, but would instead be working as part of the “knitting brigade,” sewing prisoner uniforms. This work detail gave Betsie a greater degree of freedom than she had enjoyed before, and she relished the opportunity to read aloud from her beloved Bible during her knitting.

Betsie’s mere presence rejuvenated Barracks 28 with warmth and vitality. She helped ease the constant quarreling and restore some semblance of order and community to the group. She even pointed out to Corrie that the fleas were actually a blessing—they kept the guards out of the dormitories and the indoor work areas. God truly did have a purpose for all creatures, even the fleas that Corrie had so despised. This thought helped provide strength through God.

Strength Through God With Betsie’s Ascension

Shortly before Christmas, Betsie took a turn for the worse. When Corrie’s pleas to have her readmitted to the hospital fell on deaf ears, she did what she could on her own in the barracks to help ease her sister’s pain and discomfort. Betsie was delirious with fever and was clearly on death’s door. Yet even in this state, Betsie continued to describe her vision for after the war. This time, she spoke of converting a former concentration camp in Germany into a home for those who had been destroyed by Nazism. She would turn the death camps, the most visible manifestation of this brutal ideology of hate, into places of healing and love. Strength through God helped her see a brighter future.

At last, Betsie was removed to the hospital. The nurses, however, would not permit Corrie to enter, so she had to wait until they left before talking to Betsie through the outside window. Betsie was barely conscious during this meeting, only murmuring, “so much work to do…”

The next morning, Corrie snuck off to the hospital and made her way to Betsie’s window. What Corrie saw was an emaciated, yellowed body being transported to the washroom, the same awful place where she had previously seen the stacked pile of corpses. The body was Betsie’s, dead at last from illness, neglect, and cruelty.

Corrie knew that Betsie’s body would be transported to the ghastly washroom with the pile of corpses that she had seen on her previous visit. A fellow inmate met Corrie on the other side of the hospital exterior and helped push her in through the washroom window. There, a sympathetic nurse allowed her to watch as Betsie’s body was stacked along with those of the other victims.

But then, Corrie witnessed a miracle. When Betsie’s body was laid down on the pile, it was transformed. No longer emaciated and yellow, Betsie was healthy-looking and beautiful again. Corrie believed she was seeing a vision of her sister as she looked in heaven. Betsie, like Casper, had passed through the suffering of the mortal world and ascended to Heaven in a state of beauty and grace. Strength through God offered her peace after her loss.

Strength Through God Helped Corrie ten Boom Survive

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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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