Biography of Corrie ten Boom

Cornelia ten Boom was Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape from Holland during World War Two. Among other charitable activities, Corrie started several organizations to promote healing after the war. With this hope in mind, Corrie wrote “The Hiding Place” in 1971 in order to share her experience of the war, in the Dutch Underground and her arrest and imprisonment by the Nazis.

Corrie, as she was called, was born on April 15th, 1892 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Her parents, Casper and Cornelia, had three other children named Betsie, Nollie and Willem. Corrie grew up in a house in Haarlem, Holland, called the Beje, where she continued to live throughout her adult life. Corrie attended school until she was sixteen when she stopped to help with household work. As the three maternal aunts living in the Beje succumbed to fatal medial conditions, the house grew emptier and emptier. Willem had long since left home to pursue a life in the ministry with his wife Tine. Betsie and Corrie never married, although the latter fell in love with a man named Karel. In 1921, shortly before Nollie married a schoolteacher named Flip van Woerden, Cornelia ten Boom died from a cerebral hemorrhage. In order to fill these empty rooms from marriages and deaths, the three remaining residents of the Beje, Father, Betsie and Corrie, began taking in foster children. In addition to this work, the ten Booms fed and clothed anyone who came to their door. Corrie’s church group for mentally handicapped children testifies to her warmth, kindness and love.

Corrie would likely describe herself as an unexceptional person, with average intelligence and skills. However, she was an incredibly bright woman. Her aptitude for watch repair emerged when she was a young woman. In 1924, Corrie became the first licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands. She would help her father with the business end of the shop after developing a talent for finances. Corrie spent the years before the war in this manner.

In 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, putting Holland under military occupation. With Corrie’s brother Willem already heavily involved in Underground work, it is not surprising that Corrie joined shortly after. In May 1942, Corrie began using the Beje as a short-term destination for Jews who were travelling to a safer place. The network continued to grow, even necessitating a secret room in the Beje. When the Gestapo raided the house in 1944, six people were in the hiding place. Following the ten Boom family’s arrest, Casper ten Boom died in a prison and Betsie died later in an extermination camp. Corrie was released because of a clerical error.

After Corrie’s release, she began opening homes for victims of the Holocaust as well as former Dutch people who were ostracized after the war for being Nazi sympathizers. Corrie soon began speaking all over the world, telling her message of hope and joy to a world torn by war. In addition to “The Hiding Place,” Corrie wrote several other books, including “Tramp for the Lord,” “In My Father’s House” and “A Prisoner and Yet.” Corrie often gave speeches in English, although her native language was Dutch. According to Elizabeth Sherrill, Corrie kept her English speeches simple and straightforward because she struggled with the language. However, Corrie’s Dutch speeches were strongly and swiftly delivered, indicating her intelligence and wit. Corrie’s accolades include knighthood from the Queen of the Netherlands and the Israel’s award, Righteous Among the Nations. Corrie ten Boom died in Placentia, California, on her birthday in 1983 at the age of ninety-one.

Study Guides on Works by Elizabeth Sherrill