Thursday, June 12, 2008

Corrie ten Boom's House

I know I should have posted this a long time ago. My apologies.

On my second day in the Netherlands, I got to take an afternoon trip to Corrie ten Boom's house. My hosts both had to work, so I was on my own. Starting when I got in the airplane in Dallas, I had began reading Corrie's famous book The Hiding Place, which tells the story of her family's experiences living through Nazi occupied Holland. As most of my readers are probably aware, Corrie's faith played a huge role in her life. She knew she couldn't simply stand by and let the Nazis run amuck in her country. Her heart was especially touched by the plight of Jewish-Dutch people living there in Haarlam. I finished the morning I went to visit Corrie's house.

What I found most sobering and scary about the book was the description of Christianity in Europe, especially Holland, at the time. Holland was a Christian country. The churches were active. And yet public outcry against the Nazi treatment of the Jews was almost non-existent. A considerable amount of the "Christian" Dutch population collaborated with the Nazis. The vast majority of these Christians simply stood by and refused to get involved. Holland had a population of 140,000 Jews before the war began (not counting Jews that had fled from Germany earlier). Only 40,000 of these Jews would survive the Holocaust. 71% of the Jewish population died in Holland, and the Christian Church was mostly silent on the issue. Compare these statistics with Denmark. Before the invasion, 7,800 Jews lived in Denmark. When the "Final Solution" was declared in Denmark, the local population was so horrified that they immediately sprung into action. Only 60 Jews in the entire country were ever caught. The Danes saved 99.2% of their Jewish population.

So what made the difference? From what I can tell, Denmark had already reached the post-Christian status. A minority of Scandinavians were attending services every Sunday before the war (the occupations in both Norway and Denmark dramatically increased church attendance, and the effect bled into Sweden as well). My belief, with no serious research, is that the Church in Denmark was able to have a greater impact on Danish society precisely because it had been purged of all the pseudo-Christians who attended simply because it was popular. When the hard times came (the Occupation), the Danish Church proved faithful, not only able to respond in a Christian manor to the Nazi's intentions toward the Jews, but also influence their society toward a more Christians outlook as well. The Dutch Church, on the other hand, was crippled by countless people who were Christian because that was the socially acceptable, easy thing to do. But when the hard times came (the Occupation), their faith proved to be fruitless as they stood by and watched the Nazi's slaughter thousands of their own countrymen.

So where are we in America today? I shudder at the thought that we are closer to where Holland was at the outbreak of the War then to where Denmark was, but I am saddened to admit that I think we are indeed more Dutch than Danish. Why this is the case is difficult to discern. I will give a quick thought though: I think that the Church in America, much like the Dutch Reformed Church, is much more interested in making sure that its members say the right things, agree with a specific catechism (statement of faith), and can go through the motions of good Church members than in actually affecting the hearts of her people. Not that the former is bad. Indeed we must have correct doctrine or trying to live Christians lives is impossible. But so many modern churches in America consider church attendance, tithing, missions work, etc. as the "important things" and ignore the nitty gritty of real life: anger, pride, gossiping, backstabbing, causing other Christians to sin, foolishness, idolatry, and many more.

Okay, I'm done with the rant. Now onto the stuff you've all been waiting for. Pictures!!!

Outside the Ten Boom watch shop. The store is the front part of the house (which is the museum) and is still a real jewelry and watch shop.

This is the signal that Corrie's underground movement used as a secret signal. When the Alpina sign was in the window, it meant all was fine. If the sign was gone it warned people not to stop. On the night of their arrest, the Germans figured this out and used it to trap other members of the underground.

This is the living room. The picture above the piano is Corrie's father.

Corrie's linen closet which was used as the secret entrance to the hiding place. You can see at the very bottom that the door is open for someone to slide through.

This is a hole in the wall so you can look into the hiding place. I don't know these people but they were part of my tour.

A shot of the inside of the hiding place.

This is a small hiding place used to hide Jewish valuables, as well as extra ration tickets and so forth. On the night of the arrests, this hiding place was found but the one with the people in it was not.

So there they are. I hope you all enjoyed!


Rebecca said...

You've said a mouthful, sir, and I have to say, I agree with you if but for no reason than it is true of me more times than I'd like to admit. Kyrie, eleison.

Did you get any pictures of the house?

Pierre Bellville said...

It's certainly true in my own life as well. Corrie's family has become quite the example for me, as well as other Christians throughout Europe during the War (Dietrich Bonhoeffer in German, Andre Trocme in France, Kaj Munk in Denmark, and others).

The jewelry store/watch shop is actually the front of the house. There is a side door for the museum entrance, but because the alley is so small I couldn't get a good picture of that side of the house. The window in the first picture is basically all of the side, and a green door. Nothing too exciting...

Spiff said...

Thanks for the pictures. Very interesting. The Ten Boom story is indeed a challenge.

Depending on what you mean in your commentary I either find you fairly accurate or painfully off. If you mean that a weakness of the modern church is to just go through motions without meaning then I agree. If you are proposing that the weakness of the modern church is an overemphasis on doctrine then I disagree. It seems that the problem is just the opposite. Too often Christians do not know why we believe what we do. An increased emphasis on doctrine would address this weakness and would cause true change in lives as people would be forced to examine their belief systems.

Pierre Bellville said...

I did say "Indeed we must have correct doctrine or trying to live a Christian life is impossible." I agree that true doctrine would fix most of the problems if properly understood by Christians. But I do think perhaps our overemphasis on the words of correct doctrine has created a disconnect between the words we repeat and how we live. Much like the Dutch Reformed Church, and many European established churches, we're more interested that people say or write the correct things than that they live the correct things or actually believe the correct thing.