Last week, you heard Wole Soyinka say to you that “the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism”. And sure, from the standpoint of living in a liberal democracy that generally tends to respect human rights, there seems to be a lot of truth in it. But what if it’s too late for
Last week, you heard Wole Soyinka say to you that “the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism”. And sure, from the standpoint of living in a liberal democracy that generally tends to respect human rights, there seems to be a lot of truth in it. But what if it’s too late for criticism and mere disobedience gets you killed?
This week, we would like to go back roughly 75 years in time to show you who Corrie ten Boom was. A woman who contributed to saving nearly 800 lives by risking her own.
Corrie ten Boom
Cornelia Arnolda Johanna ten Boom, or in short Corrie ten Boom, grew up in the Netherlands as the youngest out of four in 1892. Her family lived in Amsterdam in rooms over the father’s watch shop, in which she became licensed as the first female Dutch watchmaker 30 years later. However, within months after May 1940 the German Blitzkrieg ended the quiet life of the ten Boom family forever, as it brought the Nazification of the Dutch people with it.
Their house became a refuge for Jews, students and intellectuals, and the façade of the watch shop made the house an ideal location for these activities. “A secret room, no larger than a small wardrobe closet, was built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall. The space could hold up to six people, all of whom had to stand quiet and still. A crude ventilation system was installed to provide air for the occupants. When security sweeps came through the neighborhood, a buzzer in the house would signal danger, allowing the refugees a little over a minute to seek sanctuary in the hiding place”.
But her story doesn’t just end there. Over the course of the Dutch resistance, she became a leader in the Beje movement (named after the street that her own home had been in) and oversaw a number of safe houses. It was a way of protecting those that were hunted by the Gestapo and especially those that the ten Booms, regarded as “God’s ancient people” or a.k.a. the Jewish people. This interpretation amongst her relentless efforts came from the family’s Calvinist faith that kept inspiring them to help those in need. It was the same faith that made her survive the time in the Ravensbrück concentration camp into which she was brought after the arrest of her entire family in 1944. They had been betrayed by a fellow Dutch citizen.
After the war, Corrie ten Boom returned to the Netherlands and set up a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors. Not only did she take in victims but also those that had cooperated with the Germans during the occupation. In 1946, she began a worldwide ministry that took her to more than 60 countries. In 1971, she wrote a best-selling book of her experiences during World War II, entitled The Hiding Place. In 1975, the book was made into a movie starring Jeannette Clift as Corrie and Julie Harris as her sister Betsie.
Often, it is very hard to imagine what it must have been like. So, as per usual, we have provided some visual aid for you. Here is a trailer of the book that was turned into a movie. The full movie is also available on YouTube and should apart in the bar on the right hand side of the trailer: