Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Amsterdam--Haarlem, ten Boom house

Amsterdam—July 24  Haarlem, ten Boom house

We headed back to Haarlem (with walking, tram and train rides, it is only about 45 minutes.) This time we went straight to the ten Boom house. Naturally, the next tour in English was not for another 1½ hours, so we decided to go for another walk about Haarlem. We also found a wonderful little café with great sandwiches for lunch. Then back to the ten Boom house.

Situated over the family-owned clock and watch shop in the center of Haarlem, the ten Boom house was known in the area for being a place of refuge. Casper ten Boom and his family were deeply faithful Christ-followers. They demonstrated that faith in ready and generous service to others. They were particularly active in doing social work in their neighborhood. Their home was known as an “open house” for anyone in need—there were always a few extra people living there—along with the parents, 4 siblings, and 3 elderly aunts.

Casper had many friends among the Jewish population. As the persecution of Jews increased during the war, he knew he had no choice but to offer them shelter. In doing so, of course, he put himself and his children (the mother had died earlier) at risk of their lives—this non-violent resistance against the Nazis was purely an act of faith in which he trusted that God would somehow provide.

They smuggled bricks into the house and built a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom, creating a space (entered through the bottom shelf of a bookcase) where fugitives could hide if and when the police came. In time, they sheltered Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the enemy, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement. The fugitives stayed until it was “safe” to smuggle them elsewhere. The ten Boom house became a center of underground activities that led to the saving of hundreds of lives.

In February, 1944, the family was betrayed, probably by neighbors who observed all the activity in and out. The Gestapo raided the house. In the following hours, the family and about 30 friends were arrested. (The six people who were hiding behind the wall were not discovered. The police remained in the house for several days, convinced there were Jews hiding there, planning to starve them out. After 2 ½ days, the police left and the Resistance liberated the six.)

Caspar and Corrie’s sister and brother died in the concentration camps. Corrie survived Ravensbrück. For 32 years, she travelled around the world, visiting 64 countries. She carried a message of love, forgiveness, and the power of Christ who can overcome all, even the worst misery and suffering. She wrote numerous books (“The Hiding Place”, perhaps one of her best-known, is still being translated into other languages to this day.)

Her story is one of love for persecuted strangers as well as for the persecutor. She lived out a faith that finds a way to forgive an enemy who took everything away from her. This is a testimony of loyalty to the Jews and of steady, resolute, yet non-violent resistance to evil. It is a story of grace and obedience to the Lord.

We toured the house, preserved much as it was in 1944. (Actually, the house is a museum, run by a non-profit foundation whose purpose is to keep alive this spiritual heritage of the ten Boom family of Haarlem.) The false wall has been opened up so that you may see the space behind it. Documents, photos, and other mementos of that time tell the story in vivid detail. The jewelry store downstairs rents the space from the foundation; the rent helps with the maintenance of the museum.

This is a powerful and moving story. Once again, the theme of non-violent, peaceful resistance arises. Once again, I ask myself the questions: “Is my faith the kind that would stand in the face of death? Would I address evil with love? Would I forgive the worst kind of enemy?”

The ten Boom jewelry store on the street. The museum is to the left, down the narrow alley.

The plaque on the wall beside the door leading into the ten Boom house.

The hole in the wall allows you to see the very small hiding place. 

I did not take too many other pictures in the house--it was kind of dim lighting and cramped space. I did not want to disturb the other visitors and don't think that too many of the photos, seen out of context, would make much sense anyway.

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