Corrie ten Boom: On forgiveness (Even for Nazis)
Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom
Member of the Dutch resistance, evangelist, and author
Ten Boom’s portrait in the Fearless Portrait project consists of an ink drawing of her on a map of the Dutch city of Haarlem. There is a red dot near her nose to mark the location of The Hiding Place, that is the home where she and her family hid Jews from the Nazis.
At the outset of WWII, Corrie ten Boom was a watchmaker, living with her sister Betsie and her father Casper above their watch store in Haarlem, Netherlands. Known in the city for helping anyone in need, a Jewish stranger knocked on their door seeking shelter. Casper welcomed the woman into their home, saying “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.”
The ten Booms soon joined the Dutch underground and for the next two years around 800 Jews passed through their home on their way out of Nazi-occupied territory. The Gestapo raided the house in 1944 and Corrie and Betsy were sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Despite horrific and nightmarish conditions, Corrie and Betsy spent their time sharing the gospel with their fellow prisoners until Betsy died in December 1944 and Corrie was released a few days later.
After the war, a former Ravensbruck guard asked for her forgiveness. She described the moment in her book The Hiding Place, writing:
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. And I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’”
Background on ten Boom:
Ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892.
Before her death in the squalor of Ravensbruck, Betsy told Corrie about three visions she received from God about what they were to do after they got out of there. Her first vision was of a house for former prisoners, the second was to use a former concentration camp in Germany for the broken people in the country. The third was that they would be released before the new year of 1945. All three came true.
Betsy died on December 16, 1944 and Corrie was released a few days later due to a clerical error (although she had to spend a few weeks in the camp’s hospital before she was allowed to leave). One week after Corrie was released, all the women her age in the camp were gassed.
Immediately upon release Corrie opened a home in Bloemendaal for victims of the Nazis. Once this was established, she turned her attention to spreading the gospel and teaching the importance of forgiveness. This included a tour through Germany, where she opened a camp for German refugees in a former concentration camp in Darmstadt. The camp operated from 1946 through 1960.
Corrie traveled the world to speak about her faith, visiting over 60 countries in 30 years. She also wrote dozens of books.
She was honored by the State of Israel as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1967. Casper and Betsy were likewise honored in 2007.
She died on her birthday in 1983 at the age of 91 in Placentia, California, US
This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno and Oleksii Kaplunskyi.
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