Book Report: The Hiding Place By Corrie Ten Boom

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Biography on Author 

Corrie ten Boom was born in Haarlem, Netherlands on April 15, 1892. Her real birth name is Cornelia ten Boom, she acquired the nickname “Corrie” by her friends and family since she was a small child. She was the youngest of 4 children, with 2 older sisters named Betsie and Nollie and 1 older brother named Willem. Cornelia was named after her mother, but also had a father who’s name was Casper. Casper owned his own watch shop in the city of Haarlem, and the family lived in the house above the watch shop. In 1922, shortly after the death of her mother, Corrie became the first woman in Holland to be successfully to be trained and get a license as a watchmaker. 

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Later on, Corrie started to run a youth club for teenage girls in Holland for religion and classes for the performing arts, sewing and handicrafts. Her family was religious in the Calvinists, a strict Dutch Reformed Church. Through their religion, they said it inspired them to serve society, offering their home and food to those in need like the homeless. This selflessness transferred on into World War 2, where the family opened their home to harbour hundreds of Jews fleeing the Nazi’s and Hitler. Eventually, one of the Dutch citizens (most likely a neighbor) snitched on the family to the police, which got them thrown in jail for hiding the Jews from the police. While the entire ten Boom family was arrested, the police failed to find the other 6 Jews that were hiding in their house, even after a thorough search by the police. The police even incarcerated Casper, who was 87 years old at the time of his arrest. He later on died in prison shortly after he was arrested. Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp for punishment for hiding Jews. Betsie died in the concentration camp on December 16, 1944. Corrie was released from the concentration camp for reasons unknown. After returning from the concentration camp, Corrie set up a rehab center for the survivors of concentration camps in the Netherlands. A couple years later, she began a worldwide ministry that gave her the opportunity to spread Christianity to over 60 countries all across the globe. A couple years after the world tour, she wrote the novel The Hiding Place. In 1975, the novel was made into a movie, 4 years after the release of the novel. 

In 1977, Corrie moved to Placentia, California at the age of 85. A year after she moved to California she unfortunately suffered from a couple strokes that eventually made her lose the ability to speak. Corrie ten Boom died on her 91st birthday on April 15, 1983.

Plot Summary

Since the novel The Hiding Place is an autobiography, most of the plot is similar to the life of the author, Corrie ten Boom. The novel opens to the city of Haarlem, Holland. The year is 1937, and we meet Casper and his two daughters, Corrie and Betsie. The opening scene is the family of 3 eating breakfast with the watch shops 3 employees, Hans, Toos, and Christoffels. Then Corrie’s brother Willem joins the gathering with a young Jewish man, Herr Gutlieber, who escaped from Munich from the police. Corrie fears that they will be caught harbouring the Jewish man who is on the run from the police, but gets help from her friend named Nollie. Nollie has experience with hiding Jews from the police and trains Corrie how to fake answers to the Gestapo’s questions when they interrogate her. They also train to get to their hiding spots in the house as quickly as possible in case the Gestapo raid the house. Shortly after Willem begins holding prayer meetings at the Beje, the family receives Otto Altschuler unexpectedly. He comes to gloat over the German occupation of Holland. However, Otto’s visit frightens the ten Booms who realize that they must continue their work despite the danger. To introduce lessons that carried Corrie through the war, she looks back to several childhood memories that were significant to her. Some of these events were her neighbor’s baby dying, Bible verses, Corrie asking her father what sex is, her first and only love Karel, and preparation for her father’s death. 

In 1918, Corrie’s mother had a stroke which left her in a coma for 2 months. Corrie takes over the household work, while helping her mother continue her ministry of comfort and encouragement. Soon later, Nollie gets married and Corrie’s mother dies. After her mother’s death, Corrie becomes the first woman in Holland to get her license as a watchmaker. Then Willem has 4 children and Nollie has 6 children. Then Casper, Corrie’s father, is diagnosed with Hepatitis. The family begins to feel the threat of Nazism, especially when they must fire a young German watchmaker, named Otto Altschuler, for mistreating Christoffels. When the Germans invaded Holland, they did an air strike that could have killed Corrie. Nazi rule brings new laws, including curfews, identity papers, ration books, seizure of radios and discrimination and yellow stars for Jewish people. Corrie begins befriending Jewish people who are suffering, like Harry de Vries, and sees the danger they face daily. This realization leads Corrie to take part in the Underground more actively. Corrie begins to truly invest in the Underground, the organization for helping the Jews escape the Gestapo and the Nazis. The ten Booms begin housing Jews until they can find them safe homes in the country. Corrie finds that the easiest and most effective way to hide the Jews and get food is through the ration cards, by approaching Fred Koornstra, a Food Office worker. Corrie continues to develop a network of sources, learning tips from Pickwick and other Underground workers. 

In order to make the Beje safe during Gestapo raids, the anonymous Mr. Smit builds a secret room in Corrie’s bedroom. The ten Booms lie to the Gestapo and try their best to keep what they are doing a secret, but eventually a Dutchman rats them out, and the whole family is arrested. Although the family is arrested, they still managed to hide 6 Jews through the raid of their house from the police. All of them are taken to prison. Shortly after being imprisoned, Casper is taken to a hospital, where he died. Corrie and Betsie are taken to a concentration camp, Betsie died there, but Corrie is somehow let free. Corrie was devistated by the death of her sister, but realizes that she is free from the torture of the Nazis. Corrie then returns to Haarlem, and tries to get back into helping with the Underground. After that plan failed, she opens up a rehabilitation center for Holocaust victims in her hometown. Corrie then travels around the world, spreading her wisdom and stories across many nations. 

The novel ends when Corrie organizes a center for displaced Germans in a former concentration camp. Corrie wants the barracks painted green in order to promote healing and forgiveness after the terrible events of the war.

Three Elements of the Author’s Style

  1. Flashback: The entire novel is written in flashback of her time in the Holocaust and World War 2 “The year is 1937…”. 
  2. Diction: Even when writing a novel about such a serious topic like the Holocaust, ten Boom slips in advice all across the novel that prove to be very helpful to the reader “Love is larger than the walls which shut it in”. 
  3. Foreshadowing: She mentions in the novel that her neighbors who were hiding Jews in their homes were starting to get caught, and Corrie was afraid that her and her family were going to be next.

Quotes

“Love is larger than the walls which shut it in”. This quote gives a great message in such a sad novel. It relates to the novel because Corrie and her family always showed love to the people and Jews around them which worked out in the long run for them. They saved countless Jews and harboured many Jews when they didn’t have to. They showed love which was proven to be larger than the walls that shut it in. 

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart”. This quote is significant due to the healing process Corrie had to go through after the events of the Holocaust and how it affected her life. It can relate to every human who most likely will have to forgive someone for an event at some point which is what makes it significant to the everyday person as well. 

“The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation”. This quote is significant due to the measure of life the Germans had towards the Jews in the Holocaust. Ten Boom is saying that the measure of a life is determined by what you do in life, not by how long you lived.

Possible Themes

A theme in this novel is Friendship in times of Adversity. This is a major theme of the novel because the friendship of the ten Boom family to the Jews was powerful. To be able to be so loving and to be a friend to the Jewish people in the biggest time of adversity they have faced in history is very generous and mesmerizing. Another theme of this novel is prison and incarceration and its effects on individuals. Throughout the novel, people are getting thrown in jail constantly for either being Jewish or hiding or aiding a Jew in hiding. Imprisonment and concentration camps definitely had an effect on people in World War 2. Specifically, Corrie’s father Casper. Once he was incarcerated he required to be hospitalized which later led to his death. The harsh and dangerous state of the prisons and concentration camps had a major effect on the people in the novel as well as the millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

Review of the Book

I was absolutely blown away by this book. To hear a version of the Holocaust coming from a first person point-of-view of a person who actually experienced the Holocaust was an incredibly interesting read. Personally, I am a little bit emotional so it took a toll on my emotions significantly. Corrie ten Boom wrote the story beautifully and I was interested and intrigued from cover to cover. I highly recommend this book but also bare caution to those who are sensitive to topics as serious as the Holocaust. Overall, I deeply enjoyed this novel and appreciated all the content inside of it.

16 August 2021

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