The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place Summary

One sunny day in January 1937 in Haarlem, Holland, the ten Boom celebrates the one-hundredth year of their in-home watch shop together with most of the town. The three family members who live in the tiny house, father ten Boom and his daughters Betsie and Corrie, prepare for the busy day after sharing breakfast and devotions with their three employees, Hans the apprentice, Toos the bookkeeper and Christoffels the repairman. This family shares a deep love for each other, devotion to their Christian faith and warm, generous hearts for the whole community. The party mood dampens as people discuss the threat of Hitler his campaign of German expansion and Holland’s role amidst the larger powers of Europe. Finally, Corrie’s brother Willem joins the gathering with a young Jewish man, Herr Gutlieber, who escaped from Munich after some teenagers waylaid him and set fire to his beard. The family rallies round the shocked man and attempt to restore normalcy by resuming the festivities. In the evening, Corrie reminisces about her childhood and returns to the present time, reflecting that God uses all experiences in human life for a good purpose.

As the Beje network continues to expand, Corrie fears that they will be caught. Other instances occur to make Corrie worry, like the seizure a Jewish woman staying in Nollie’s home. Nollie, however, believes that her honest admission of Annaliese’s Jewish heritage will protect both of them. Although Nollie goes to prison, Annaliese miraculously escapes. After Corrie persuades the German doctor of Nollie’s Amsterdam prison, he grants Nollie release on medical grounds. After several scares, the Beje residents begin training Corrie to answer Gestapo questions correctly. They also train to reach the hiding place in as little time as possible. 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.

In order to introduce certain lessons that carried Corrie through the war, she relates several childhood anecdotes. In 1898, Corrie resists going to school for the first time because she is afraid. Nollie has a dilemma, too, regarding the latest fashions. The formidable and morbid Tante Jans buys the girls’ clothing and refuses to buy anything she considers modern or indecent. Fortunately, the family distracts Tante Jans from Nollie’s fashionable fur cap until Father reads scripture for that day, Psalm 119:114, “Thou art my shielf and my hiding place.” Corrie wonders about these words until her family forces her to go to school. Upon entering the larger world, Corrie has several questions about growing up. For example, on the train back from Amsterdam, Corrie asks her father what sex is. He uses a train case to show his daughter that he must carry that knowledge for her until she grows older and stronger. A few years later, Corrie faces questions of mortality and fear, when a neighbor’s baby dies. Her father tells Corrie that when he is ready to die, God will prepare her for the loss.

In the third chapter, Corrie describes her first and only love, a man named Karel who is school friends with Willem. Corrie first meets Karel at a family occasion and they meet again while Corrie visits Willem at the university in Leiden. In the intervening years, Corrie leaves school to help run the Beje and care for her aging aunts. Tante Bep dies from tuberculosis after leading a bitter and unhappy life as a family governess. Shortly after, Tante Jans is diagnosed with diabetes, a fatal disease in those days. Before Jans dies, she tells her family that she is thankful to die empty-handed in spite of all her charitable work. After these losses, the family is happy to celebrate with the marriage of Tine and Willem. Meanwhile, Corrie and Karel rekindle their relationship, which grows especially when they are in Brabant to attend Willem’s first sermon. Corrie feels crushed, therefore, when Karel arrives at the Beje a few months later with his fiancé. He must marry for money and station rather than love. Through Corrie’s heartbreak, she decides to give her love for Karel to God instead.

In 1918, Mama suffers a severe stroke, which leaves her comatose for two months. Corrie takes over the household work, while helping her mother continue her ministry of comfort and encouragement. Soon after Nollie marries a young teacher named Flip van Woerden, Mama dies. Eventually, Betsie and Corrie discover that Betsie should be in charge of the house and Corrie should work in the watch shop. In 1924, Corrie becomes the first licensed female watchmaker in Holland. In the passing years, Willem and Tine have had four children and Nollie and Flip have had six. After Father contracts a dangerous case of hepatitis, the people of Haarlem pool their resources to buy him a radio for his seventieth birthday. The rumblings of war disrupt the peaceful life of the Beje residents. The family feels the threat of Nazism especially when they must fire a young German watchmaker, named Otto Altschuler, for mistreating Christoffels.

Shortly after firing Otto, the ten Booms face the beginning of war with the German invasion of Holland in May 1940. After an air raid that could have killed Corrie, she has an ominous vision of her family being taken away in a wagon. Betsie tells her that God shows people the future to show his control over it. Indeed, Corrie and the rest of Holland need that comfort during the German occupation. 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.

In May 1942, as the occupation grows harsher, Peter is arrested for playing the national anthem in church. Meanwhile, Corrie learns the methods of the Underground movement. The ten Booms begin housing Jews until they can find them safe homes in the country. Corrie solves the greatest problem for relocation, the lack of 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.

As war rages, the ten Booms struggle to reconcile the precepts of Christianity with illegal Underground activities, including lying, stealing and sabotage. Lying is sometimes necessary for survival, however. After Peter’s release from prison, he faces seizure for munitions work in Germany. The ten Booms strive to protect their young men from this terrible fate by hiding them and deceiving the Gestapo. Other tragedies strike the Beje residents, including the death of Christoffels and Gestapo seizure of Harry de Vries. Corrie, Betsie and Father continue to refine the Beje system, which now includes six other permanent residents. The most memorable of the six is Meyer Mossel, called Eusie as a disguise. The others, like Eusie, are Jews who cannot be placed in other homes. The Beje group grows closer during these difficult times with cultured entertainment and reverent worship.

On February 28th, 1944, the Gestapo raids the Beje with the help of Dutchman Jan Vogels. Corrie, who is battling influenza, and thirty-four others are taken first to the prison in Haarlem and then to Gestapo headquarters in the Hague. Six people remain safely hidden in the hiding place, although the Gestapo threatens to starve them out. The Beje group is sent to Scheveningen Prison, although everyone but Corrie, Betsie and Father are later released. After ten days at Scheveningen, Father is taken to a hospital where he dies. Corrie knows none of this, however, because she is in solitary confinement. She struggles with prison boredom, but the four gospels, which a nurse in the doctor’s office had given her, help her survive. Gradually, Corrie regains her strength enough to sit through her hearings with Lieutenant Rahms. Corrie shares the gospel with Rahms and tells him that there is a way out of the darkness he is in. After four months in prison, Corrie sees her family at the reading of her father’s will. Although Willem is weak and jaundiced, he makes Corrie feel safe for a little while.

Soon after, the prisoners are transported to a concentration camp called Vught, where they spend two weeks in quarantine. Eventually, they reach the main camp, where Betsie and Corrie share the gospel with their fellow prisoners. Corrie works in Phillips Factory and exhibits her mechanical skills, while Betsie sews uniforms. The sisters have slightly better conditions at Vught, although the constant executions at the neighboring men's camp make life difficult.

As Germany begins to lose the war, they start transporting prisoners to extermination camps. Betsie and Corrie are taken to Ravensbruck, where they receive deplorable treatment. The sisters endure grueling physical labor, unhygienic conditions and cruelty. Corrie asks God to carry the burden of seeing such cruelty for her. Meanwhile, the sisters learn the pitfalls of holding a ministry in a prison camp. Corrie overcomes the temptation to be selfish, while Betsie grows kinder every day. When Betsie's strength fails, she goes to hospital where she dies. Corrie is heartbroken, although she realizes that Betsie is free from cruelty now. Corrie's own release comes shortly after because of a clerical error. On January 1st 1945, Corrie leaves Ravensbruck.

After recuperating at a hospital in Groningen, Corrie visits with an ailing Willem in Hilversum. Two weeks after, Corrie returns to Haarlem, Nollie and the Beje, despite the travel ban in Holland. Corrie feels that her life is empty in the Beje. After a failed attempt to return to Underground work, Corrie opens the Beje to mentally handicapped people. Soon after, Corrie meets a woman who donates her house, Bloemendaal, as a rehabilitation center for Holocaust victims. Corrie begins to realize her sister, Betsie's vision, when she opens the Beje to former NSB members who are homeless and unemployed. In the meantime, Corrie begins to share her message of joy and peace with a war torn world. The last piece of Betsie's vision manifests itself when Corrie organizes a center for displaced Germans in a former concentration camp. Corrie asks that the barracks be painted green in order to promote healing and forgiveness after the atrocities of the war.