They were friends with the Jewish population long before the Germans arrived. Casper ten Boom and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, worked, lived and worshipped alongside them in the heart of Haarlem, Amsterdam. They participated in their Sabbath rituals and held regular Old Testament Bible studies.
Neutral throughout World War I, the Dutch assumed they would be spared an invasion. However, on May 10, 1940, the Nazis entered the Netherlands; eight days later the Germans occupied the nation.
“I pity these poor people, Corrie,” Casper ten Boom reflected.
“The Jews, Papa?”
“No, Corrie. The Germans. I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God’s eye.”
They opened their home to Jewish refugees and learned the ways of the underground movement. “Watch your ashtrays and wastebaskets,” they were warned. “If the raid is at night, have the refugees take their bedding and flip the mattress over. One of the Gestapo’s favorite tricks is to feel for a warm spot on the mattress.”
Eventually, Corrie, Betsie, their father, and others in the home were arrested. Casper ten Boom died ten days later in the hallway of a hospital. He was buried, unmarked, in a potter’s field.
Corrie and Betsie were imprisoned. After four months of solitary confinement, Corrie prayed, “Lord, I cannot be alone without human beings.” Just then, she saw an ant crawl across the floor. “Thank you, Lord,” she responded. Day after day, the ant appeared in her cell. When it perceived danger, it ran to a little hole in the wall and disappeared. “The Lord whispered to me, ‘Corrie, that little hole in the wall is the hiding place for the ant. Don’t forget that I am your hiding place.'” She recalled, “That ant came everyday as my little friend.”
Once I was taken from my cell to the judge’s office. Five times, my sister, Betsie, had been summoned to his chambers. “I’ve never met anyone like your sister,” he commented.” She told me about Jesus, but said it’s better to speak to Him than about Him.” He continued, “I have evidence that you have hidden eight people.” He produced papers found in the home containing the names of friends and family who helped them protect the Jews. Most of these people were in prison now, meaning certain death if confirmed. “Can you explain these papers?” he asked. “No.”
Suddenly, he turned to the wood stove in the room and opened the door. He flung the papers into the fire. “I never believed I could be so happy! The papers were destroyed.”
“I learned a great lesson in that moment,” she said, “better than I ever understood before. When we bring our sins to the Lord Jesus, the Bible says, He casts them into the depths of the sea. He blots them out like a cloud. At the cross, Jesus finished all that is necessary to take away our sins.”
They were sentenced to Ravensbruck camp, assigned to a building made for 200 women, occupied by 700. When they entered, they saw barracks with mattresses made of rags and straw, full of fleas and lice. “I cannot thank God for this,” she complained. “Oh, we must thank God for everything,” Betsie replied. As it turned out, she was right. The guards refused to come into the building because of the infestation. This enabled the sisters to begin a Bible study.
“These were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28. With each moment the crowd around us would swell, packing the nearby platforms, hanging over the edges, until the high structures groaned and swayed. At last Betsie would open the Bible. Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text, we would translate aloud in German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb.”
Sharing their paltry fare, Betsie prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for the soup.”
“He doesn’t expect thanks for this,” Corrie stated.
“I’m thankful for every moment we can be together,” Betsie replied. “There has to be a plan, Corrie. God doesn’t make mistakes.”
When asked how she could believe in a God who allowed them to suffer as they did, Betsie replied, “You, friend, see what is around you. We see another world – just as real; our life with God. Everyday it gets deeper, stronger. You think the two can’t exist side by side, but we know they do.” She added, “The worst can happen in your life. The best remains. The very best is yet to be.”
Betsie became ill and began to weaken. One evening in December, she said, “You know, Corrie, we’re going to be free before the New Year. The Lord showed me in a dream.” Days later, on December 16, 1944, Betsie died at Ravensbruck. The girls of the barracks pled, “Read to us, Corrie. Read for Betsie. Read for all of us.”
Twelve days later, December 28, Corrie was released.
“I promised my sister I would tell it,” she would declare in 64 countries over 33 years.
To those who struggle, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”
To those who doubt, “You see what is around you. We see another world – just as real, our life with God. Everyday it gets deeper, stronger.”
To those who suffer, “The worst can happen in your life. The best remains. The very best is yet to be.”