Who is Corrie ten Boom? How did she start rescuing Dutch Jews during World War 2?
Corrie ten Boom was the daughter of a Haarlem watch shop owner. During the Holocaust, she hid Jews in her home behind a false wall.
Read more to learn who is Corrie ten Boom and understand how her faith guided her to protect Jews.
Who Is Corrie ten Boom?
Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom, born in 1892, grew up as part of a tight-knit, devoutly Christian family that held regular Bible study sessions and taught their children to live according to Christian principles. Who is Corrie ten Boom’s father? The family patriarch, Casper ten Boom, was a master watchmaker whose skill was recognized all over Holland and even other countries in Western Europe. His watch shop was on the ground floor of the family’s home, known as the Beje.
Spiritual Conversations With Her Father
Faith is an important part of the question “who is Corrie ten Boom?” Corrie ten Boom would often accompany Casper on the train to business trips in Amsterdam. During one of these journeys with her father, young Corrie recalled asking him about “sexsin,” a word she had heard in a poem at school. Topics like sex were rarely discussed openly by families in early-20th century Europe—and certainly not in the conservative ten Boom household. After she asked this question, Casper asked Corrie to carry a box full of heavy watches across the train platform. She struggled and told her father that she couldn’t do it. He explained to her that just as there were physical burdens that were too heavy for her to bear, there were spiritual burdens that she could not carry on her own, so it was best to let God carry them for her. These conversations shaped who Corrie ten Boom was.
One afternoon in 1937, when Corrie was 45 years old, the ten Booms held a party to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their family watch shop, started by Corrie’s grandfather, Willem, in 1837. In the hardships that were soon to befall her, Corrie would recall this day of celebration as one of the best and proudest of her life. It was a big part of understand who Corrie ten Boom was. The entire Haarlem community showed up to toast the ten Boom family, including fellow congregants at their church, St. Bavo’s, as well as business associates, suppliers, customers, and even competitors.
The Jewish community of Haarlem began to face harsh discrimination and was soon ordered to wear yellow stars stitched to their clothing. By 1941, Jews began simply disappearing off the streets. Awful rumors began to circulate about Jews being deported en masse to death camps in Eastern Europe.
Corrie ten Boom Choose to Act
The answer to the question “who is Corrie ten Boom” is also about her bravery in helping Jews. Corrie’s first act to rescue Jews in Haarlem was helping her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Weil. In November 1941, the Germans surrounded and vandalized the Weils’ furrier shop, located next to Casper’s watch shop. The ten Boom family watched as the Germans looted and destroyed the shop, thankfully while its occupants were absent. Corrie and the family made the pivotal decision to intervene, spiriting Mr. Weil into the Beje and sheltering him until the authorities left. Willem and his son, Kik (both of whom were already active in the Dutch Resistance through Willem’s efforts to shelter Jews in the nursing home he operated), helped Mr. Weil escape to a permanent safehouse in the countryside, while getting word out to Mrs. Weil not to return home.
Who is Corrie ten Boom? She knew that working with the underground would mean lying, defying authority, stealing, forging, and possibly even violence, all of which was in direct violation of her bedrock Christian faith. Yet that same faith also told her she could not sit idly by while her neighbors were being persecuted. She prayed for the answer to the question—how should a Christian act when evil is in power?
She began helping her Jewish neighbors on a regular basis, people whom she had seen for years on the streets of Haarlem, never even knowing that they were Jewish. Separately, Corrie’s sister Nollie and her husband were also sheltering two Jewish women in their home. One of them was a man she and her sisters knew only as “Bulldog,” so named because he was always to be seen walking his beloved bulldogs through the streets of Haarlem. Bulldog, whose real name was Harry de Vries, told Corrie that he had euthanized his pets, fearing that they would be neglected if he was arrested by the Nazis. Who is Corrie ten Boom? She is a woman that made a solemn pledge to God: she would help His people in any way she could.
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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