Vught Concentration Camp: Corrie as a Labor Prisoner

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 was the slave labor unit at the Vught Concentration Camp? How did the company Philips benefit from those imprisoned in the camp?

Vught Concentration Camp was a camp in Holland. They used slave labor to work jobs like those in the Philips factory.

Read about Corrie ten Boom’s time at the Vught Concentration Camp in Holland.

Leaving Scheveningen for Vught Concentration Camp

At last, their train arrived. The guards marched and shoved the prisoners onto the train, refusing to tell their human cargo where they were headed or what would happen to them when they arrived. But there was one ray of hope: Corrie and Betsie were at last reunited. They had endured terrible hardship, but they would no longer be alone. Betsie was without the Bible that Nollie had given her—she had given it away to others, as she did with all things.

Corrie could only see a tiny bit of the outside world from inside the cramped train. But she saw enough to know that they weren’t being sent to Germany when she saw that the train did not take a turn east at a trestle. They would be staying in Holland, and, for her, this was a source of comfort.

Arrival at Vught Concentration Camp in Holland

The train disembarked, but not at a rail station or even a camp. The guards forced them off the train in the middle of the woods. Once the suffering and half-starved prisoners had all cleared off the train, they were ordered to march on foot, at gunpoint. Betsie was ill and was having difficulty breathing, so Corrie helped her make the journey through the dark woods. At last, Corrie saw where she and the other women were being taken: the Vught concentration camp in Holland for political prisoners. 

They were ushered into a quarantine compound just outside the camp, languishing in this holding area for two weeks before being processed for admission into the main camp. When Corrie and Betsie’s names were called, they were issued pink forms. The inmates from the main camp told them that this meant that the ten Boom sisters were being processed for release!

These hopes were soon dashed, however, when they arrived at the administration building. They were not being released, but merely transferred to the main camp, where fresh horrors awaited them. They arrived in a yard flanked by concrete buildings. There, they were told by a veteran inmate what the function of these buildings was: torture centers for recalcitrant inmates who failed to obey camp rules. If they stepped out of line, Corrie and Betsie would be taken to one of these buildings, be stuffed into a room the size of a gym locker, have their hands bound above their head, and be left to wait in this condition indefinitely. 

Betsie, however, never lost her faith in the redeeming power of Christ’s love. She saw the goodness—or potential for goodness—even in the concentration camp guards. She would not seek revenge, but she would turn the other cheek at her persecutors. She saw it as her Christian duty to show these wayward souls the error of their ways and that, through Christ, it was never too late to embrace love.

The Philips Factory

In July, Corrie was assigned to a slave labor unit in the Philips factory at the camp, assembling parts for radios for German fighter planes. Corrie was deemed healthy enough for this form of manual labor; Betsie, in her weakened condition, was assigned to duty sewing prison uniforms with the other sickly inmates.

(Shortform note: The legacy of the Dutch electronics giant Philips during the Nazi occupation is a complex one. The company, under Nazi pressure, did open a factory inside the Vught concentration camp in 1943. This factory used slave labor from political prisoners and materially contributed to the German war effort. On the other hand, the company hired as many Jews as possible to work in this factory, telling the German occupiers that these laborers were too valuable to be sent to Auschwitz to be killed. According to company history, 382 out of the 469 Jews who worked in the Vught concentration camp factory survived the war. In 1996, the government of Israel awarded company president Frederik Jacques Philips the Yad Vashem “Righteous Among the Nations” medal, given to non-Jews who helped to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.)

The Philips factory was run by a foreman named Moorman, a fellow prisoner. Moorman was a veteran of the concentration camp system and knew what it took to survive in such a place. He worked hard to ensure that those whom he supervised were protected from the worst excesses and random brutalities of the guards and advocated as much as he could for better rations and provisions for the workers. Moorman assigned Corrie the dull and monotonous job of measuring small glass rods and arranging them in piles according to their measurement.

Moorman was an expert operator within the camp system. He skillfully presented a subservient and obedient face to the Germans, while covertly organizing sabotage and work slowdowns among his workers in an effort to hamper the German war machine. On one occasion, Moorman even admonished Corrie for being too diligent and conscientious with her work, reminding her that they were, after all, making radios for German airplanes.

Vught Concentration Camp: Corrie as a Labor Prisoner

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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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