Who was Tante Jans? Was she the only aunt that lived with Corrie ten Boom? What was her relationship with Corrie like?
Tante Jans was a widowed woman who was one of Corrie ten Boom’s maternal aunts. While living at the Beje, she demonstrated her passionate commitment to her faith.
Read more about Tante Jans and her influence on Corrie ten Boom.
Who Was Tante Jans?
The family at the Beje extended beyond Corrie’s parents and siblings. During her childhood, Corrie’s maternal aunts (“Tante” in Dutch), Bep, Jans, and Anna came to live at the Beje. They were elderly and widowed, and in poor health.
Corrie formed a special bond with Tante Jans. She was, like the rest of the family, deeply and passionately committed to her faith. She was a larger-than-life presence at the Beje, well-known in Haarlem (and throughout all of Holland) as a writer of fire-and-brimstone Christian tracts, often assailing “modern” forms of dress like mutton sleeves and bicycle skirts. She was indefatigable, possessed of boundless energy—for she believed that God judged individuals based upon how much they accomplished in life. For Tante Jans, her faith-based work was her life.
Unfortunately, Tante Jans was diagnosed with diabetes in 1914, just on the eve of the First World War. In those days, such a diagnosis was typically a death sentence, but Tante Jans refused to succumb to despair. She resolved instead to pour herself even more forcefully into her work.
Every week, Tante Jans needed to have her blood sugar level tested. Corrie eventually took it upon herself to administer the diabetes tests to her aunt. The doctors instructed Corrie to heat the compound to a precise temperature (no easy feat on a coal-burning stove) and record its color. If it was clear, then the sugar levels were stable; if it turned black, Corrie was to notify the doctors immediately. She did this diligently for the next five years, while the First World War raged across Europe.
One morning in January 1919, Corrie ran the test and observed the results, praying that she was mistaken—the compound was pitch black. She immediately notified the doctor, who told her that she wasn’t mistaken. The doctor told her she had a mere three weeks to live. The family conferred on the matter that night. Casper made the decision to tell Tante Jans about her impending fate. He told her that, while some people meet God with empty hands, Tante Jans would return to the Lord with hands full from a life spent in meaningful work—raising money for the poor of Haarlem, starting clubs for returning veterans, and writing devotional literature.
Tante Jans broke down upon hearing this, insisting that everyone went to God with empty hands—because our deeds on Earth were nothing compared to Jesus’s sacrifices on the cross. All we needed in life was to be sure of this. Tante Jans died shortly after, but her boundless energy and commitment to her work set an indelible example for Corrie.
After the Passing of Her Beloved Aunt
Four months after her aunt’s death, the ten Boom family took a day trip to the rural village of Made, where Willem was to deliver his first sermon as a clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the sermon, Corrie, now 27, was reunited with a familiar face—Karel! Although she had seen Willem’s old schoolmate a few times over the years since their initial meeting and had never stopped loving him, this occasion marked a new phase of their relationship.
Connection to Tante Jans After the War
She began preaching in the streets of Haarlem in spring 1945, sharing the message of the unconquerable power of Christ’s love. In the war-torn city, this was a powerful message, one that resonated deeply with a community yearning for hope in a hopeless world. In her new role as a crusader and missionary for the Lord, Corrie was driven to finally bring Betsie’s vision to life. She wanted to create a home that would bring healing to the wounded and suffering.
After one of her preaching sessions, Corrie was approached by the widowed Mrs. Bierens de Haan, an aristocratic woman who lived in the wealthy Haarlem suburb of Bloemendaal. As the two women spoke, Mrs. de Haan shared that her mother had been a friend of Tante Jans, years before. Mrs. de Haan had always admired Tante Jans’s charitable work and Christian writings and had known of the Beje as a place of refuge and Christian charity. And Corrie, too, had known of the de Haan estate as the most beautiful home in all of Haarlem.
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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