Book Review: The Hiding Place

I remember my paternal grandmother recommending that I read The Hiding Place when I was in middle school. At that time, I had a healthy obsession with World War II era stories. I loved reading The Diary of Anne Frank and was fascinated by my grandparents’ French neighbors who had participated in the French Resistance against the Nazi Occupation. Probably because my grandma recommended The Hiding Place, I didn’t read it. At the time, reading a book that had a strong faith element was not interesting to me—and that was the characteristic of the book that she kept pushing. I grew up in a Christian home, but as a young child, I didn’t see that my faith traditions had much relevance in my scholastic interests. I ignored the recommendation and forgot the book even existed.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I got hired as the program coordinator for an undergraduate study abroad summer experience that I had participated in during college. On the International Business Institute, students travel through Europe, Asia, and this year, the Middle East, to broaden their perspectives on international business, politics, cultural relations and faith through corporate visits, tourism and taking classes. In one of the early planning meetings with the director of the trip, I was told that we would likely visit the Corrie ten Boom house in Haarlem, Holland, while we were in the Netherlands. That name was distantly familiar until the director said, “You know, the woman who wrote The Hiding Place.”

I think it was no small coincidence when soon after that, the weathered spine of my grandma’s copy of the book caught my eye while I was visiting my parents. Thankfully, I’ve matured a bit in the past two decades. This time I didn’t hesitate to borrow the book and began the story right away.

Corrie ten Boom’s story of perseverance as a prisoner of war throughout the latter half of WWII is extraordinary. Her story, which was told with the help of John and Elizabeth Sherrill (two American authors), stands out. Unfortunately, there were probably thousands of similar survivor stories that didn’t get an audience and of course, millions more who perished under Nazi persecution for their race, disabilities (real or perceived), sexual orientations, or just their inherent human kindness to help anyone who fit into an “undesirable” category.

“Childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent. Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.”

The Hiding Place (Chosen Books, 1971), p.21

The Hiding Place is Corrie’s personal story of ­­­­her experiences during the occupation of Holland. Soon after Nazis took control, Corrie, her siblings and their elderly father began to participate in the underground system of hiding and/or transporting Dutch Jews. To avoid detection, they installed a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom in their ancient narrow house to conceal a small room in which Jewish refugees could hide. The underground system throughout Haarlem was eventually exposed and the ten Boom family was sent to various prison camps in Holland for a time. Though some of the family members were released, Corrie and her sister Betsie were transported to Ravensbruck in Germany.

Miraculously, although Corrie and her family members suffered for their actions, her story contains far more light than darkness, and its purpose was more keen on redemption than revenge. As she again and again testified, faith prevailed even when her own strength and will failed. At the end of the war, she was instrumental in setting up rehabilitation homes not only for those who were imprisoned, but shockingly those who were Nazi collaborators and former guards. Her mission to help restore peace to her homeland knew no bounds.

“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. 215

I have no idea if the uncomplicated storytelling can be attributed more to Corrie or the Sherrills, but either way, The Hiding Place was easy to read in terms of flow and sensitively recorded in regard to the painful circumstances Corrie encountered.

A final coincidence, or perhaps not, is that I read this book during the final few weeks in which I wrapped up the plot of volume one of my inaugural novel series, which is set in England at the start of the Second World War. Although my fictional characters have very different experiences than those of the ten Boom family, similar themes of perseverance, resourcefulness and the value of relationships amid hardship were already woven into my characters before I “stumbled” on this book. I have no doubt that I was meant to finally read The Hiding Place at this time and be encouraged by Corrie’s unashamed and unwavering faith as I wrestled with how to incorporate mine into my career.

This book may be for you if you also like: the Netherlands; Haarlem, Holland; Dutch culture; WWII era stories; faith-driven stories; grit; Anne Frank; Unbreakable (book and/or film); good triumphing over evil; watches or watchmaking; strong family bonds; row houses; travel; riding a bicycle; humor; old houses; the 1940s.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Lisa Fox says:

    I love the Hiding Place. . I also own the book Tramp for the Lord which is about Corrie’s travels after WW2. I look forward to hearing about your upcoming travels. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

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