In order to understand Corrie Ten Boom’s memoir more fully, it is essential to possess knowledge of the Holocaust, the horrific genocide of World War II that motivated Corrie to take resistant action. More than six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, which spanned across 19 European nations. Following the increasing anti-Semitic actions and sentiments in Germany, including an unofficial boycott of Jewish stores, legal action constricting the Jewish population started on September 15, 1935, with the Nazi regime’s passage of the Nuremburg Laws. In the Nuremburg Laws, Nazi officials ruled that having one or two racially Jewish grandparents warranted sterilization or exile and having three or four merited extermination.
A highly detailed plan leading to Hitler’s extermination of all Jews (a.k.a. “The Final Solution”) was set into motion. Jews were killed in their communities, in urban ghettoes, or in concentration camps. In these concentration camps, Jews were worked to death in an attempt to further the German war effort. The Nazis’ puppet governments in France, Holland, Italy, and other nations participated in sending Jews to concentration camps. One direct result of the displacement of millions of Jews was the founding of Israel in 1948. Of the 154,000 Jews in Holland, 75% perished by 1945. 16,500 Jews survived by hiding, an effort to which Corrie devoted her life.
In the case of Holland, the Nazis had an advantage by obtaining the exceptional Dutch administration records; from these records they could easily find the number and location of most Jews and other targeted groups such as the Roma people (a.k.a. gypsies) and homosexuals. Additionally, the marshy geography of Holland made escape difficult for Nazis targets. The first civilian uprising of the war occurred with the Dutch uprising in February, 1941. The progress of the Dutch resistance was checked when the Gestapo obtained a set of Dutch radio codes in 1942. Civilians who hid Jews were punished by deportment from their homes to concentration camps. 5,200 individuals and 3 organizations were later recognized by Israel for saving Jews.
The ten Boom family ran an Underground operation from their home in Haarlem, Holland, called the Beje. In order to allow Jews to reach safe locations, Underground workers like Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, operated a vast network of resources. Underground workers faced imprisonment by the Gestapo, which worked equally as hard to capture Resistance movements. In order to deceive the Gestapo, Underground houses required special systems and secret rooms for Jews to hide during raids. A man named Mr. Smit built the secret room in Corrie ten Boom’s bedroom, where six people hid during a Gestapo inspection. Unfortunately, much Underground activity did not succeed as long as the ten Boom’s work in Haarlem. Prisoners were treated almost as badly as the Jewish refugees they were attempting to protect.
Holocaust memorials exist all over the world, largely in the form of museums, which relate the narrative of Hitler’s heinous crimes against millions of people. After the war, victims of the Holocaust made intentional efforts to share their stories in narratives like “The Hiding Place.”