Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Better World Book Challenge 3 – A Childhood Favorite
In The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, the author and her family lived in Haarlem in the Netherlands in 1940 when the Nazis invaded. As Calvinists, they saw it as their duty to help God’s people and set about creating a hiding place in their home for Jewish people that came to them for refuge. The Hiding Place follows their quest to save those they could and their ultimate capture and internment.
I think to understand why I read this book so often as a child, one must understand my childhood and neither of us has time for that. I will simply say that I was raised in a very conservative religion and attended the very small school whose home was the church we attended from preschool to grade 12. At some point, around the time when public school kids might have been assigned to read The Diary of Anne Frank, I was asked to read The Hiding Place. Corrie ten Boom, according to my teacher, was the Christian Anne Frank. Of course, reading the diary of the latter quickly proved that, while the two women had a few things in common, their stories were quite different.
Corrie ten Boom was in her late 40s living in Haarlam with her father Casper, and her sister, Betsey when the Nazis invaded. Casper was a watchmaker who had helped neighbors and had gained an underscored reputation as someone willing to help those in need. The Hiding Place was created when a Jewish woman came to the door saying that she needed help because her husband had been arrested and her son was in hiding. The ten Booms helped both people of Jewish faith and members of the resistance. The Hiding Place has a heavy emphasis on faith and the intervention of a higher power. There were fears that they didn’t allow to stop them from helping people, but there were also practical struggles. The ten Boom ration cards were not enough to feed everyone in the house. Through the story, Corrie experiences guilt over her need to compromise her moral beliefs (i.e. lying and stealing). Ultimately, the family is betrayed and sent to prison in the Ravensbruk Concentration Camp where they relied on their deep faith, a smuggled Bible and the ability to share their religion with their fellow prisoners.
The writing style is very simplistic and direct, likely as a result of English not being ten Boom’s first language. The author shows us the joy of her life before the Nazis with her family’s celebration of 100 years in the watch industry, the need to honor her faith and help without regard to consequence and also a perseverance of spirit. The Hiding Place captures the imagination of young readers. As an older reader, The Hiding Place didn’t quite hold up. It is, at its heart, a book for children. There are much better books about the Holocaust out there, and that is not to demean Corrie ten Boom’s experience and that some her family gave up their lives in the name of humanity. It simply is very simple and direct in telling the story but very heavy handed with the divine intervention. I have heard it said that the author was “very full of herself” but really, she had the assurance of knowing, looking back and the outcome. She believed that she was sure that every move, even their eventual capture was for the greater good. It’s not spoiler alert to say that ten Boom survived. The Hiding Place was written in the 1970s when she was over 80 years old. Ten Boom was a noted evangelist and eventually relocated to the United States where she died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday.
If you are looking for stories of the Dutch Resistance (and ten Boom didn’t consider herself part of the Resistance, though she and her family definitely were) or faith-based works of persisting against incredible odds, The Hiding Place is a story not to be missed. Pick it up for yourself or your school-aged child today.
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