In 1837, Willem and Elizabeth ten Boom opened a watch shop in their house in Harlem, Holland. They lived above the shop with the rest of their family. The home was later passed down to Willem’s son, Casper, and then to Casper’s daughter, Corrie.
The Ten Boom family were devoted Christians who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need.
During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and her sister Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Booms’ way of living out their Christian faith. This faith led them to hide Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement.
During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 6-7 people illegally living in this home: few Jews and a Few members of the Dutch Underground. Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another “safe house” could be located for them. Corrie became a ringleader within the network of the Haarlem underground. Corrie and “the Beje group” would search for courageous Dutch families who would take in refugees, and much of Corrie’s time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the Ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers.
On February 28, 1944, this family was betrayed and the Gestapo (Nazi secret police) raided their home. The Gestapo set a trap and waited throughout the day, seizing everyone who came to the house. By evening about 30 people had been taken into custody! The Gestapo suspected Jews were in the house, but the Jews were safely hidden behind a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom. Casper, Corrie and Betsie were all arrested, because underground materials and extra ration cards were found in their home.
Casper, Corries father (84 years old) died after only 10 days in Scheveningen Prison. Corrie and Betsie spent 10 months in three different prisons, the last was the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp located near Berlin, Germany. Betsie (59) died in Ravensbruck, but Corrie survived.
The Ten Booms gave their lives for this family’s commitment, but Corrie came home from the death camp. She realized her life was a gift from God, and she needed to share the family story after the war. Corrie received many tributes: she was knighted by the Queen of Holland. In 1968, the Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem) asked Corrie to plant a tree in the Garden of Righteousness, in honor of the many Jewish lives her family saved. Corrie’s tree stands there today. In the early 1970’s Corrie’s book THE HIDING PLACE became a bestseller and World Wide Pictures released the major motion picture “The Hiding Place.” Corrie went on to write many other inspiring books and make several videos.
Corrie died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. It is interesting that Corrie’s passing occurred on her birthday. In the Jewish tradition, it is only very blessed people who are allowed the special privilege of dying on their birthday!
In 1987, the Corrie ten Boom House Foundation purchased the building To continue this family’s witness, in 1988 the Foundation opened this home as a museum.