This book is definitely directed to Christians, but there is no reason why others should not read it. It is very informative and it is written in a clear-cut, simple way; in a straight forward manner, it describes the horrors of World War II, and it documents the terror that Corrie Ten Boom actually experienced. Although some of the information presented may seem exaggerated to some, I feel comfortable writing that the book seems based on facts. This is a story about courage in the face of despicable evil, a story about a family in Holland that was willing to put the needs of others above their own. This is a story about the Underground, a story about the Ten Booms who rescued Jews and hid them in their own home, selflessly.
Through the trauma and pain, they never doubted their purpose or their actions; they believed that what they were doing was right, and perhaps, it was G-d’s will. No matter what your belief in G-d is, you will find this story inspiring because it is about true kindness, true compassion, true sacrifice. Two of the sisters experienced Concentration Camp life together and that helped each in its own way; Betsie benefitted from Corrie’s love and care when she was ill; She ministered to others and always saw the silver lining, even in the worst of circumstances. She helped Corrie out of her bouts of anger and despair. Betsie, in the spirit of her religion, forgave the sinners and pitied them for their malevolence, prayed for them and hoped to help them too. She forgave their wickedness. If she was truly able to help others to survive the most awful conditions, let’s agree to accept that her gift came from somewhere.
This stirring story comes out of the blackest period of history. The ability to forgive those who have wronged you is surely not an easy thing to do, and yet, that is what Corrie does when she is finally free. She fulfills Betsie’s dream. She finds a beautiful home, like her sister imagined, where the rescued could be rehabilitated and introduced into society again.
Before the war, at home, in Haarlem, Corrie’s father took in homeless children and her sister Betsie, like her mother before her death, fed the hungry. The Second World War in Europe screamed from the radio, but the changes taking place hardly interrupted their lives until the night of the Prime Minister’s speech, the night that he promised the people there would be no war, and yet, it turned out to be the very night that the bombs began to fall. Holland was being attacked despite the promises that their neutrality would be respected. Very soon, the Queen left and they were occupied by the Germans. Life slowly began to change. The Ten Booms rose to the challenge they faced.
As a Jew, I truly appreciated the effort of these righteous Christians and the honesty with which their story is portrayed. Although it doesn’t mention much about the horrors the Jews were subjected to, it shines a light on the horrors that were visited upon the political prisoners who tried to help them, and their plight was, if not as bad and desperate, surely a close second after what I read. So many suffered the same terror, the same fear of arrest, the same humiliation and torture, the same starvation and deprivation as the Jews, though their numbers did not mount into the millions. Perhaps it was their belief in the power of miracles and their belief in Jesus that sustained them, whatever it was, it clearly worked. Many people who survived the war tell of miraculous occurrences that just seemed to occur, crediting these with saving their lives. There were many unsung heroes who risked their lives, ultimately sacrificing them, so that others might live and end the evil perpetrated by the National Socialists, the Nazis.
The Ten Boom family was humble and faithful. They started every day with a prayer session to which all were welcome. They had food at the ready for the needy and a bed for those who found themselves homeless. Their unmitigated courage and kindness should be recognized and honored. They truly lived righteously at a time when malevolence was everywhere, perhaps because they lived everyday righteously, even without the thought of impending doom hanging over their heads..
The belief in Christ is definitely a major theme in the book, but I didn’t find it offensive. I was reading about their experience and their beliefs. Their vivid descriptions of conditions seemed so precise that I could see the fleas and the lice crawling. If they wanted to find G-d’s hand, even in that filth, that was okay with me. The issues they faced were dealt with openly, as with the dialog about the physical appearance of some Jews, how they were described in some cases as too Semitic looking to easily hide. While this might seem a negative, stereotypical description of Jews, since only one was described as lovely and blonde and there was disbelief that she too was sacrificed, it seemed honest, it was the only time I sensed some possible prejudice.
The family was aware of the fact that people were disappearing at a time that most people turned a blind eye and they offered to help even when the clergy refused. Eventually, they were betrayed by a collaborator, yet Betsie, and eventually Corrie, forgave their enemies or at least tried to with the help of their G-d. No matter how many Holocaust books I read, I always learn something and I always am incredulous and brought to tears. So I respect whatever power worked for these righteous Gentiles. This is not a newly published work, but it will never be too late to read it and profit from their experience, from their courage and their example.