Scroll down about halfway, if you’d prefer to eschew the long, somewhat tedious, personal introduction.
[Updated: Visit the ten boom Museum website for a fantastic 360-degree, narrated tour—you’ll feel like you are right there (be sure to enter the hiding place itself, in Corrie’s bedroom)]
The trip that we just took to Europe was all about family. As you know, the primary reason to be there was to celebrate The Belgian Wonder’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Before and after that event, we were with other members of his big family, sharing meals, chatting, and generally catching up. It’s been, after all, three years since we were last with them. All of The Belgian Wonder’s 13 nieces and nephews have changed dramatically in that time, and it was our first time meeting the youngest member of the family, a nephew.
As a result of this people-time-priority, we did very little sightseeing and even less shopping.
However, after the 50th, when we were in Holland staying at CenterParcs, the family asked us if we wanted to do anything in addition to visiting the beach and enjoying the CenterParcs facilities (such as its indoor water park). Did we want to see anything special? Visit a cheese-making farm, perhaps, or an historic old windmill?
I said that I’d love to visit the Corrie ten Boom museum in Haarlem and then go to Amsterdam and tour the Anne Frank house. In the several visits to Europe we’ve made in 17 years of marriage, we had never made it up there. It was about a two-hour drive from where we were staying.
As it turned out, everyone was interested in going, even if they only ate ice cream in the city centers while we took the tours. We were glad we didn’t have to lose a day with these people we see so rarely and want to build memories with, in order to see the two sights.
All together, our group added up to 24 people, 11 of them children.
To get that many people out the door packed for a day outing in the vans and cars caravaning two hours to Haarlem (we planned to park our vehicles in Haarlem and take a 30-minute train ride to Amsterdam afterward) was quite a feat. Not surprisingly, we got a bit of a late start and had to make a couple of pitstops en route. All to be expected, of course.
We parked by the train station, where we bore witness to the fact that Dutch people really do use their bikes (snapped through the van windshield):
Then we rushed to get to the museum.
When we got to the door, the English tour was about to begin. Whew! We were just in time.
We started to enter, but the tour guide started pushing the door shut. “Sorry,” she said, “but this tour is full. We can’t take anyone else. Sorry.” Thump. The door shut.
We stared for a moment, unsure what to do. Just then, another guy brushed past us, explaining in English, “We made arrangements beforehand and reserved this time.” He knocked, spoke to the guide who cracked open the door, then slipped in and pressed the door shut behind him.
On the green door hung a little sign with two clocks on it, one for the Dutch tours and the other for English:
“Next English tour: 3:30 p.m.”
It was early in the day, and we were faced with a decision: should we skip the Ten Boom museum and go to Amsterdam, stand in line for the Anne Frank house, and risk such a long wait that we might have to leave without seeing it, too? Should we give up Anne Frank and figure out how to spend an entire day in the small town of Haarlem until the 3:30 tour, which would mean getting back very late? Or should we scrap all the plans and return to the indoor waterslides?
Here’s the outdoor plaque posted on the exterior wall. I got the sinking feeling that this was all I’d capture of the museum (click to enlarge):
Nobody wanted to make the final decision, because I (and our immediate family, but particularly I) was the main one who wanted to take the tour. I felt utterly incapable of making the decision–I didn’t want to be the one forcing all those small children to hang around the city with nothing to do for a day just so that I could see the museum. But I also wanted to do this one thing very badly. All we could agree on was lunch. We walked out to the town square and ate sandwiches next to a big sculpture:
To buy time and do something fun, someone proposed we take a canal boat ride and see the city. The conclusion gradually seemed to be that we would take the ride and then head on back to CenterParcs. It appeared that we would pass on both the Ten Boom museum and the Anne Frank house.
On the canal boat, I worked hard to accept this reality. I handed the camera to The Belgian Wonder, who takes better photos than I, and asked him to snap some shots on the ride. He went to the back where most of our group was sitting, and I stayed toward the front to hear the narration.
As we passed a beautiful windmill at a fabulous angle, I leaned over to see if he was getting a nice shot of it–but he was on a borrowed cell phone making a call! I waited to see if he would finish and get a shot, and he hung up just in time to snap a good one, which was the centerpiece of one of my postcards from Holland.
The Belgian Wonder continued snapping photos on the ride, and eventually moved back into the front to report that he somehow convinced the good people at the Ten Boom museum to change their schedule around so that we could tour it at 2:30 instead of 3:30. This meant that we could finish the canal ride and go straight to the house, take the tour, and get our 24 people home at a reasonable hour.That’s the story of how I had to sacrifice Amsterdam and the Anne Frank house, but was able to see the Ten Boom museum after all.
I just wanted you to know how challenging it was to pull off, and how extra-pleased I am to offer you the following virtual tour. Here is the ten Boom living room, where the tour began:
We walked up some narrow stairs and gathered in the living room. I whispered to The Belgian Wonder, “Take a lot of photos.” In this peaceful, tranquil space, as the tour guide began telling us the ten Boom family history, The Belgian Wonder was snapping away as subtly as possible.
He even took photos of the family portraits on the walls:
In the bottom left photo, you can see a shot of the room that we were in, looking very much the same. The windows have that same decorative top as they did long ago.
Corrie organized and led a Christian girls’ club in the home before the war, something like Girl Scouts. The photos below show her with some of the girls in their uniforms:
After giving an overview of Corrie’s story and explaining how the family got involved with the Resistance, the tour guide took us up the extremely narrow, tight stairs to Corrie’s bedroom, the location of the Hiding Place. To form the space, the ten Booms smuggled bricks in, a few at a time, to create a false wall.
The wall would have been, of course, solid. Somebody at some point took out a section for visitors to see (and climb) inside:
The room with the shaft of light streaming in seemed so serene. Such a contrast to the reason for the Hiding Place–to protect people in a time of terror.
The design was ingenious, building a simple cupboard on the left as a secret entrance:
The Jews in hiding would open the cupboard and climb through the back of the bottom shelf. The back raised and lowered from the inside. Once everyone climbed through, they placed a basket with linens to fill that spot, lowered the door, and from the outside, it looked like a simple cupboard against a brick wall:
I climbed in after everyone else had a turn.
The guide said that with lots of practice drills, the people they were hiding could get to the Hiding Place in 70 seconds after the alarm was sounded. This included stripping the sheets (taking the sheets in with them) and flipping the mattress, if they were in bed (so that no body heat could be felt), or scooping up all dishes, cups, napkins, and eating utensils if it happened while eating.
On the fateful day that the Gestapo came, the six people they were protecting made it to the Hiding Place safely. The ten Booms would put an Alpina sign in the window when it was safe for people to come to the house who were part of the Resistance. If not, they’d pull the sign out. This is the sign:
That day, when the Gestapo came up the very alley where we waited outside for the tour, they pounded on the heavy green door. Betsie snatched the Alpina sign from the window. Sadly, one of the Gestapo saw her do that and figured it was a signal. When they entered to search, he placed it back in the window, and a few more people came to the house thinking it was safe and were taken in for interrogation.
The Gestapo found the spot where the ten Booms hid their extra ration cards and false passports. It was in the stairway:
But they couldn’t find the people. They knew that they were in the house, but they just couldn’t figure out where. Then they decided to starve them out. The people were stuck in the Hiding Place for two-and-a-half days without water, while the Gestapo posted guards, waiting.
One day, a Dutch police officer was put on duty. Little did the Germans know, he was part of the Resistance. He found a chance to get them out, so he helped them onto the roof and through a window into the neighbors’ house, who helped them escape. They all made it out, and the Dutch police officer disappeared until after the war, as well, because he would have been found out.
Here’s the view of the neighbor’s roof (the lower orange roof). The window was blocked off at some point over the years, but it’s the same building:
Here’s the view from the roof in a couple of directions, which was interesting to see even if we weren’t imagining a fearful bunch of Jewish people quietly climbing through to safety:
We passed through the remaining room, where the attic access was (the dark spot upper center):
Several photos were under the cases, including a sampling of the ration cards they had to secure in order to feed the people they were protecting:
Also, there were photos of Corrie with a wide variety of people throughout the world where she had spoken the message of salvation and hope and forgiveness after the war.
There was this photo of some of the people who had stayed with the ten Booms, Jewish people who had come to them for protection:
It was for these people (and others) that the ten Booms risked and sacrificed their lives. Corrie is the only one from her family who made it out alive, after eleven months in concentration camps.
In the dining room, where the signal clock sat in the window, the tour guide turned our attention to the back side of a tapestry that Corrie often used as an illustration (sorry about the glare):
It’s just a big mess of strings, all different colors wadded up in no pattern or form. Then he read a poem that she herself would read when showing the tapestry. I think it’s this one that I found online:
Life is But a Weaving
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
Then he had someone flip it around to the front side:
A crown of life.
Corrie’s received hers.
And offered it directly back to the Savior, I’m sure.
What a life. I loved, when reading The Hiding Place, how real she was. Her sister, Betsie, was so pure and childlike in her faith, trusting the Lord at His Word so simply and earnestly, praying continually. Corrie was the one exclaiming, “Fleas!” Corrie was the one who wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!”
But Betsie immediately began to pray, “Show us. Show us how.” Corrie wrote, “More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie” (p. 197, The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, Bantam Books, New York, NY, copyright 1971) Betsie is the one who said to thank God for the fleas. Corrie is the one who was aghast. “This was too much,” she wrote. “‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'”
But Betsie insisted that the verse says to give thanks in all circumstances, not just in pleasant circumstances.
Corrie prayed. But she was sure that Betsie was wrong.
And of course later they realized that the reason they had so much freedom to worship and pray and study God’s Word and sing was because of….the fleas.
Anyway, I tell that famous story only because I love how this extraordinary woman, Corrie ten Boom, was also quite ordinary–at least she presented herself that way. And she found herself in “such a time as this,” and rose to the occasion by faith.
As a result, she got to see the Lord work in her life in extraordinary ways.
After the war, she spoke about forgiveness in all kinds of settings. The most dramatic occasion was when she returned to Germany with that same message, and a guard, one of their first jailers, approached her.
“How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away.”
He stuck out his hand to shake hers. She preached the need to forgive, but kept her hand at her side. As angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through her for the horror, pain, and suffering he caused, she “saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.”
She struggled to raise her hand. She felt no spark of warmth or charity. She couldn’t forgive the man…not on her own.”
Jesus, I cannot forgive him,” she prayed. “Give me Your forgiveness.”Then she described what happened next:
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. (p. 238, ibid.)
The ten Boom house was a place of Christian prayer, protection, safety, love, faith, and forgiveness. And I felt so privileged to finally be able to walk through it and almost feel it.
I was flipping through the book The Hiding Place and saw this quote from Betsie:
“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety–O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!” (p. 67, ibid)
O friends, I think that both Betsie and Corrie would want us to ask for the same thing:
Let us pray that we may always know God’s will, and always be at the center of it.
* * *
If you haven’t read The Hiding Place, please consider purchasing it today using my affiliate link (click on the image):
Also, introduce your children to Corrie and Betsie ten Boom by reading them Gutsy Girls, Book Two: Sisters Corrie and Betsie ten Boom (for affiliate link, click on image):
Ann, you have no idea how much this post speaks to me. I truly think that God orchestrated the timing of it just for me because it’s exactly what I needed to hear right now. (Of course, I’m incredibly vain, so I would think this post is for me!) :o)
Thanks for sharing your trip, your tour and your thoughts with us. Corrie ten Boom was such a great example of God’s love with skin on.
Long post, but very insightful.
Looking for photo ideas? Please visit 12 Photo Ideas To Try This Summer
Ann, I was six when my mother first read The Hiding Place aloud to my brother and me. Since that time I have remained awed by the incredible faith of the Ten Boom family. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. …. I didn’t mind at all the lack of inverted pyramid style. 🙂
thank you for sharing this. after 12 years of homeschooling (we’ve moved often-all up and down the east coast) we’ve enrolled our kids in school, and this book (one that spoke to me as a young child) is on my 10th grade dd’s summer reading list (you would not believe the other choices and how grateful I am for this choice!). I’m hoping it (and I’ll share this blog post with her as well) will give her the strength she will need to be a light in the darkness in a public school that she’s been out of since kindergarten (she’s the 2nd of 7 kids).
thank you again! (and I’m usually on your dad’s side, sorry–but my dh is the accountant/can’t get enough details to a story-better half of our union).
This brings back memories of reading The Hiding Place when I was young. I hadn’t thought about that in years. Loved seeing the pictures from the house! -Julia
I really enjoyed this post (and your WFMW on Corrie) as well. I’d love to go visit her home. I cannot believe that they allow people to actually touch things and go into the hiding place.
Thank you for sharing!
I have a lump in my throat just looking at those pictures and reading so much truth. Thank you for sharing, Ann. What an amazing place to see, even just through your vacation photos.
Shalee: Thanks so much for taking the time to write that comment. I had a hard time getting it ready, with countless interruptions and distractions. Then I finally felt strongly I needed to sit down and finish, even if I had to stay up late. I’m especially glad I followed that urge, now that I read your sweet message.
Mike: I know…I need to learn the beauty of brevity. I’m glad you were able to slog through it and find something of value!
Toni: Wow, your mom read that to you at a pretty young age. But you know, when someone asked The Boy, age 6, what was his favorite part of the whole trip, he answered immediately “The ten Boom museum.” Perhaps he’ll leave a message on someone’s blog sometime with a note similar to yours!
Jodi: I do hope that Corrie becomes an inspiration to your daughter. My daughter read it for 7th grade (last year) and so she was really excited to see the museum and see with her own eyes everything she’d read when it was so fresh. I pulled together some links in the next post that your daughter might enjoy after reading the book (or while reading it). And on another note, I know I need to write tighter. I’ll work on it. Sometimes the storyteller in me just takes over….
HookedonHouses/Julia: Hi! I suppose this is a very different house to evaluate! It was so beautiful. I was ready to move to Holland and serve as a tour guide, just to be in that space.
Mamacita: I never thought of it, but you’re right–it’s pretty neat that they aren’t too particular about us touching things. I suppose if I’d wanted to, I could have asked to hold the family Bible. I think that they really want to keep their story alive in order to communicate the gospel.
Jenni: I have a lump in my throat every time I think back to the story, to the day at the museum, to the hiding place, to the time on the roof, and seeing the footage from the movie on those YouTube videos. Thanks for taking time to write a comment.
i was searching for one of Corrie Ten Booms quotes online when i got to see and read your post. you’re right, it took long before getting to the meaty part! =) and i think i’m doing quite the same with this comment. last time i read the book “The Hiding Place” was during my pre-high school period, and having to recall the significance among many of her significant experiences found on her book with a more adult-understanding point of view, made a very profound impact…can’t really find the best words to describe how i felt and still feeling at the moment.
After having to go through segments of her book, see the pictures and your descriptions of your tour inside her very house, makes problems, sacrifices, and petty, vain complaints about life look a huge lot smaller in contrast to Corrie’s experiences.
In an odd way, i’m glad Corrie was able to share her story. To be experienced by others such as you, who keeps the river of her life flow through other others such as me.
I just want to say thank you for sharing this with us! I have just finished reading this book maybe a month ago…although I’m 18 I would love to believe that i was there with her while reading “The Hiding Place”. The three visions of Bestsie just gave me hope…and it was the only book that made me cry ;)… Thanks Shauna
I was looking for the pictures of the crown to use with “The Weaver” and ran across your article. I was able to tour the house nearly ten years ago and the tour and her story still impact my life. What powerful lessons of forgiveness, trust, self sacrifice. I am amazed at her strength and wonder how I would respond in such circumstances. I plan to share your website…thanks for the wonderful “tour”.
David Weaver says
Ann 1. Is Wally Kroeker your dad? 2. Thank you much for the photos with descriptions of Ten Boom house interiors. They are a gift to those who have seen few-to-no interior areas. As a college student in the 1970s I visited the house but only briefly stepped inside the watch shop then owned by an unknown jeweller. The ‘hiding place’ was no longer accessible to tourists due to structural concerns from many people visiting the upper level. 3. With the restoration, wow, what a wonderful reality for all who know and pursue this story. Were original ten Boom items retained on site over the years and/or returned to be present in the museum? One supposes Corrie was involved as a consultant with the restoration, yes? Did you learn of her responses as the shop-house was brought back to life? Many thanks for your sharing from this visit.
Thank you for posting the photos and about your tour. We have never met, but going to the Ten Boom museum is something I have always wanted to do. Seeing all the photos you took and hearing about it was just a great blessing to me!
Kristine, TX says
Thank you so much for sharing this story and photos. Truly moving and inspirational. God bless you, Ann, for taking the time to post this.
Susan Mauney says
Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I was looking for the Tapestry to give to my sister who’s going through a rough spell and found this site. Love the Ten Boom story. So awesome to be able to see their house! Thanks again.
You are very welcome! I’m glad to share.
Ellie Kniffin says
Thanks for the poem of the tapestry. I have been to Corrie’s home twice, just yesterday the poem of the tapestry was read. Thank you. do you know it is written by?
What a message of God.
blessings, Ellie K
ten boom house says
The Ten Booms really had a nice place. Who would’ve known it would be a refuge for the Jews. The Ten Booms are really good-hearted people. They show compassion beyond words.
Kathy Recicar says
What a wonderful blog–Corrie’s inspriation never ceases to amaze me-she was a true saint of God Thank you!! thank you so much for this.
National Gallery says
I’m really impressed together with your writing talents as smartly as with the layout on your blog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Anyway stay up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to peer a nice weblog like this one today..
By doing it quick you exercise time management which is one of the most crucial
things on the test.
Then, after using the free trial you decide this is
not the site for you. Again, remember these are first
impressions – don’t scare them away with your written profile by getting too personal too quickly.
When you make a long term association with a few targeted venues, you can negotiate better
price terms and also obtain credit from the venue owners.