Saturday, May 27, 2017

Visiting The Hiding Place / The Corrie ten Boom House

Last May, Josh and I had the privilege of visiting the ten Boom house in Haarlem, about a 15 minute train ride outside of Amsterdam. One of my main reasons for wanting to visit The Netherlands was to see the home and city that Corrie ten Boom originated from. The Hiding Place is one of my favorite books of all time and if you haven't read it then by all means do so! It will leave you inspired, uplifted, and in awe of God's grace.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the story, Corrie, along with her father and sister, created a safe haven for Jews during the Nazi occupation in Holland during World War II.

The outside street-facing view of the ten Boom home. 

Corrie's father, Casper, was a highly respected and expert watchmaker. He was widely known as the best watch repairman in Holland and people came from all over the Netherlands, and even Germany, to have him repair their watches. 

Just as the watch and clock shop was situated beneath the ten Boom home back in the 40s, the shop remains open for business to this day but is separate from the museum. 

The family often used this side door to enter and exit the home when they didn't want to disturb shop customers. 

The ten Boom family were not Jewish but because of their deep love and devotion to God they decided early on that they would be used in whatever way they could to minister and save the Jews around them. The ten Boom house and watch shop soon afterward became a major undercover anti-Nazi operation. 

Corrie began working with the Dutch Underground, gathering and distributing stolen ration cards, helping Jews escape to safe countries, and eventually hiding Jews in her own bedroom. 

The ten Booms helped Jews find hiding places in homes who were also sympathetic to their plight. Although they were able to find safe places and transport for many people, some Jews had no place to go. The "unwanted" ones (like the man "who looked too Jewish", or the elderly woman with the horrible whooping cough) came to live with the ten Boom family. There would eventually be a total of six people (four Jews and two members of the Dutch Underground) seeking refuge in their home. 

Here is the main living area where the family would gather to have prayer time, bible study, and listen to their "forbidden" radio. 

The staircases were extremely narrow and steep so you can imagine how
chaotic it would have been during a drill or raid. 

The ten Boom family hired an architect whom Corrie met while working with the Dutch Underground. He constructed a hiding place in Corrie's bedroom that he boasted "The Nazi's could search for a year and never find." 

The Jewish refugees did not actually live in hiding. They ate, slept, and carried on their normal activities in the main part of the house but when the Gestapo dropped by or the home was randomly inspected, the guests would flood Corrie's bedroom and crawl through the hidden slat in the closet. As you can see, the bottom wall panel is removed so they could slide through and then replace it. The space was just large enough where the six adults could stand with their backs against the wall. The large hole in the wall was added after the war, to show visitors the hiding place. The hole is also where the headboard of Corrie's bed would have once stood. 

The refugees practiced daily for the inevitable raid. An alarm system was installed in the home and they held unannounced drills every day, even during the middle of the night. With the push of a small, hidden button, a very quiet buzz would go off (only loud enough for the occupants inside the house to hear it). Their goal was to get themselves, and all of their belongings into the hiding place in sixty seconds. Not only did they have to run up a very tight spiral staircase (as you can see from my previous photo) and dive into a tiny crawlspace, they had to stop whatever they were doing, gather all of their clothes, belongings, and bed sheets and carry everything upstairs and into the hiding place. With their daily drills and practice, they were able to get it down to seventy seconds.

Of course, I had to experience what it would have been like, so I took the difficult way around and slid under the opening in the closet panel to stand in the hiding place. It was very surreal to be standing in the spot that the hidden Jews once inhabited. 

Photos of Corrie are hanging in her bedroom. Below, are shown where the stolen
ration cards were hidden inside the staircase. 

The family were eventually betrayed and sent to concentration camps. Corrie was the only member of the family to survive and she was miraculously - and mistakenly - allowed to leave Ravensbruck shortly before the war ended. 

The Nazis searched the ten Boom home from top to bottom for two days, tearing wallpaper and banging on walls, looking for the hidden Jews but never found them. The refugees stayed put in the hiding place for over 47 hours before escaping. They later escaped with the help of the Resistance through the window, pictured below, under the cover of night.  

The rest of the house has been converted into a museum that commemorates
the family's lives and sacrificial service during the war. 

The map above are the locations of the concentration camps across Europe
and the numbers in red are how many people that died there. 

The photo above is of Casper ten Boom. The museum is full of family photographs and heirlooms. 

Corrie's English bible 

The suitcase that Corrie used when she escaped Ravensbruck. 

The family's "illegal" radio 

The dining room where the ten Boom family would gather for meals. 

The "Alpina" wooden sign that would sit on the window sill of the dining room to signal that everything was clear and the home was safe to enter. During the raid the original sign was broken. 

The front of the ten Boom shop as it stands today. 

Looking up at the house from the alley. The large window is the main living area of the home. 

This experience was one of the most moving and memorable of my life. If you are ever in the Netherlands I highly recommend you visiting the ten Boom house. If you never plan on visiting but would love to see more, I found a visual tour of the home (along with more information on the ten Boom family). It is a pretty cool visual tour and I immensely enjoyed revisiting the home. You can view the tour here. 

"There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." ~ Corrie ten Boom 


  1. That must have been an amazing and incredibly moving experience to see in real life. I so enjoyed "The Hiding Place" and seeing these pictures makes it so much more real. Thank-you so much for sharing!

    1. Hi Nicole!

      Yes. It's one of my all-time favorite books and has been on my bucket list so I was thrilled to visit! Thank you for stopping by and saying hello and I'm glad you enjoyed the little tour. :)