The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I liked this so much better than any other Holocaust book I’ve read with the possible exception of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I wish I had read this at school instead of Anne Frank. But I suspect The Hiding Place is too Christian a book to make it to most school reading lists. And that’s what makes it so very amazing.

The Hiding Place of the title refers not only to the little hidden room at the top of the house in Haarlem where Corrie and her family hid their various Jewish refugees, but even more importantly to the image from the Psalms, God is really the hiding place.

I’ve been hearing about this book for a long time. First, from my former roommate, Niamh. It was one of her favorites. But later from various other sources. Still, it was a quote Niamh posted on Facebook that made me decide it was time to finally check it out:

“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It’s too heavy,” I said.

Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”

That was definitely one of my favorite moments in the book. Corrie’s father seems like such a wise man.

There is another passage a little later where he displays the same kind of wisdom that moved me even more, though. Corrie is disturbed by her first encounter with death, the baby of a poor family her mother has adopted.

At last we heard Father’s footsteps winding up the stairs. It was the best moment in every day, when he came up to tuck us in. We never fell asleep until he had arranged the blankets in his special way and laid his hand for a moment on each head. Then we tried not to move even a toe.

But that night as he stepped through the door I burst into tears “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!”

Beside me on the bed Nollie sat up. “We went to see Mrs. Hoeg,” she explained, “Corrie didn’t eat her super or anything.”

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffled a few times, considering this.

“Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

And of course Father is proved right:

In front of us the proud face crumpled; Tante Jans put her hands over her eyes and began to cry. “Empty, empty!  she choked at last through her tears. “How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?”

And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done all—all—on the Cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

Mama threw her arms around her and they clung together. But I stood rooted to the spot, knowing I had seen a mystery.

It was Father’s train ticket, given at the moment itself.

This book was a treasure house of riches. I definitely need to buy a copy to read again and again. I also love Father’s wisdom when Corrie has her heart broken. I love Corrie sister Betsie and how she sees the good in everything and can find a light in any darkness, even in the most brutal of the SS guards. One of my favorite scenes is when they give thanks for the fleas.

Oh if you haven’t read this one, you really, really should.

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  • My very favorite place in all of Boston. I went once to a chamber concert there when I was very small and have vague memories of it. The atrium, though, has loomed large in my mind since I was about three. That’s where I was introduced to Sargent, flamenco (thanks to the painting Jaleo) mythology and learned the word carnation. If I ever get back up there Will and I are going to spend the day. Philomena will love it.

  • J. I hadn’t seen that. That is wonderful. How very in keeping with Mrs. Gardner’s desire to make art available to the masses.