The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place Summary and Analysis of Chapter 13: Ravensbruck


After two more days on train, suffering from thirst and nausea, the prisoners arrive at a small town in Germany. Women pour out of the train, rushing to the lake to get water. Only a handful of young guards watch over one thousand women, but the prisoners are too weak to resist. During the march to the camp, Corrie notices how the townspeople turn away from the women and avoid eye contact. After supporting each other through a long march, the sisters arrive at Ravensbruck, a notorious extermination camp. The camp is organized similarly to Vught, but more bleak and gray. Corrie cannot see the surrounding woods over the concrete walls and electric fences. When guards herd the women into a tented area, Corrie and Betsie discover lice in the straw. Everyone begins cutting their hair, often crying as they do so. During this time, Betsie suffers from a fever and painful intestinal cramps, although she manages to sing hymns at night. The group suffers through rain and cold, and they are only given one daily ladle of turnip soup and a potato.

After two days, guards take the women to the processing barracks, where they must strip off their clothes for a degrading medical inspection. They walk past dozen of scoffing guards before leaving all their possessions. Corrie manages to save the bible by bundling it under her clothes and sneaking it past the guards’ inspection. Corrie regards the undetected bible as a sign from God that he is in control of the situation. Ravensbruck brings new difficulties, including an earlier roll call and close proximity to the punishment barracks with the screams of tortured humans. Corrie asks God to carry the knowledge of such suffering, which is too heavy for her to carry. The bible becomes real and potent for Corrie, who can visualize Christ’s suffering more vividly now that she too has suffered.

Fridays bring the humiliation of medical inspection, for which the women must be naked. Corrie wonders how the guards can be so cruel as to laugh at the stick think legs and hunger-bloated stomachs, which proceed before them. During a perfunctory examination, Corrie has the comforting realization that Jesus Christ hung naked on the cross. Armed with this knowledge, Betsie and Corrie face the coming winter in permanent barracks. Corrie worries for her sister, who has a persistent cough and failing strength. In the barracks, Betsie and Corrie see two hundred women, knitting in cramped quarters.

Their permanent barracks are filthy, crowded and flea-ridden. There are no beds, only platforms with dusty straw and eight women where four should sleep. When Corrie asks Betsie how they will survive, Betsie tells her that they must be thankful for everything, even the fleas because the bible tells them so. The sisters give thanks for being together, having the chance to share the gospel, for sneaking the bible through and for the fleas. This barracks, designed for four hundred women, now holds fourteen hundred. In that crowded space, arguments erupt constantly, causing Betsie and Corrie to pray for peace in the barracks. Soon after the sisters pray, there is a noticeable quiet in the barracks.

At four in the morning, the women rush to eat the black bread and coffee-like substance, which must sustain them for the long day ahead. Latecomers do not get breakfast. The thirty-five thousand women are divided into work details after 4:30 roll call. Corrie and Betsie must work at Siemens factory for several weeks. The miserable work involves pushing carts to Railroad tracks where they unload large metal places.

After a grueling eleven-hour workday and dinner of turnip soup, Betsie and Corrie hold worship services for a growing group. As Corrie reads the Bible in German, women translate it into several languages. The sisters are surprised that they have the freedom to hold worship services, but the barracks have a puzzling lack of supervision in the evening hours. Part of the sisters’ ministry involves sharing the contents of the Davitamon bottle, which seems to hold a never-ending supply. Betsie thinks of the oil jar in the Old Testament, which God continues to replenish. A Dutch woman named Mien, who works in the hospital, supplies the sisters with yeast tablets. One day the bottle fails to produce more drops to the consternation of the women in the barracks, especially Corrie.

On November 1st, the women receive coats, which barely keep out the growing chill of winter. Betsie and Corrie must level ground outside the compound and the backbreaking work leaves the women with painful spasms in their legs. Betsie’s failing strength shows in her work, which she can barely manage anymore. One day a guard orders Betsie to work faster and laughs at her for carrying too little in her shovel. When prisoners join in the teasing, Corrie grows very angry. However, Betsie begins laughing, telling the guard that he is describing her accurately. When Betsie says she must be able to continue taking small loads or she will have to stop, the guard brutally slaps her cheek. Betsie must restrain Corrie against charging the young guard, although the blood on Betsie’s face makes her sister very upset. The coming of winter brings chill rains and freezing cold, which exacerbates Betsie’s cough, now filled with blood. Eventually, Betsie’s fever is high enough to merit entrance to the camp hospital. All of the women in the barracks feel Betsie’s absence and ask Corrie about her sister’s well being. Corrie feels very alone without her sister.


In chapter thirteen, the sisters arrive at Ravensbruck, a notorious women’s extermination camp. Ravensbruck is a beautiful alpine setting with a charming village, church, and bright blue lake. Except for the children, the townspeople refuse to look at the female prisoners, perhaps out of shame. In the context of the war, civilians had little choice over military and government matters. The time at Ravensbruck parallels Vught, both involving relatively short stays in Nazi camps. Ravensbruck, however, is a darker, more miserable and less vital than Vught, which seems like a pleasant alternative at this point.

Throughout this chapter, Corrie uses a tone, which conveys her sense of unreality. The train journey and march to the camp are nightmarish and incredible. The senseless repetition of roll call, prisoner numbers and regulations seem meaningless to Corrie. Everything at Ravensbruck is driven by fear, even the guards. Punishments flow freely, including the mental and physical stress of early roll call. Corrie grows more and more removed as the psychological tone of her narrative darkens.

Corrie provides a human perspective to the historical context of Nazi extermination camps. She endows the facts and figures of the Holocaust with names and faces, which drive home the cruelty of Hitler’s regime. She details the inhumane treatment and unhygienic conditions in a manner that reveals the personal damage incurred. The lice, dirt, and disease provide the background to Corrie’s experience. In addition, Nazi brutality emerges during the physical inspections, which are sexual harassment rather than medical care. Once again, Corrie returns to an allusion to Christ’s crucifixion. Corrie draws comfort from knowing that Christ hung naked on the cross, but this was not a final defeat for him.

At Ravensbruck, the sisters experience positive things, like being together in the mornings and evenings. Corrie understands getting the Bible past inspection as God’s provision. In addition, the fleas symbolize the benefit of looking for good during dismal situations. Moreover, the tiny insects reveal how the National-Socialist philosophy of worth and value fails to view the world. Finally, Betsie’s introduction of courtesy and kindness into the barracks emphasizes the metaphor of light illuminating darkness. Especially in Ravensbruck, much of Corrie and Betsie’s behavior serves to emphasize how Nazi philosophy provides a warped perspective of the world.

At Ravensbruck, as in literature, the coming of winter marks a classic metaphor for the approach of death. In this camp, winter means death for many, who cannot withstand the conditions. Even Betsie feels discouraged after her attempts to diffuse the situation humorously with the guard fail. Corrie grows gloomy and loses her sense of joy. The misery and pointless suffering wear Corrie down as she searches desperately for a greater meaning. At the end of the chapter, Corrie is alone and miserable without Betsie, who is her best friend, nearby.