Ep. 18 – The Hiding Place: Miracles Haven’t Ceased!
Learn about the incredible true story of Corrie Ten Boom—how she helped Jews during the Holocaust, and how God blessed her for her faith.
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- The Hiding Place is an amazing WWII memoir by Corrie Ten Boom published in 1971
- Why so many Holocaust books?
- “In darkness, God’s truth shines most clear”—despite the great evil of the Holocaust, so many people responded in courageous, valiant ways
- What makes a hero?
- Corrie Ten Boom didn’t set off to be a hero—she just had a pure heart, strove to do what’s right, and let the Lord lead her
- God doesn’t make us bear everything at once
- Corrie’s father once told her, “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.”
- The power of the scriptures
- While in the concentration camp, Corrie and Betsie treasured their Bible and shared it with others at every possible moment
- “Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.”
- The miracle of the vitamin oil
- The Lord miraculously blessed them to have enough vitamin oil for Betsie and other sick prisoners
- “It was one thing to believe that such things were possible thousands of years ago, another to have it happen now, to us, this very day. And yet it happened, this day, and the next, and the next.”
- The miracle of the fleas
- Corrie and Betsie strove to be grateful “in all circumstances”—even in a barracks full of fleas—and the Lord blessed them for it in an incredible way
- The miracle of love
- Corrie learned the miracle of God’s love early in life, a lesson she had to apply after the war when confronted with one of her jailers
- “Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way … God can give us his perfect way.”
- “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.”
- God’s will is our hiding place
- “[God’s] will is our hiding place. Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will! Don’t let me go mad by poking about outside it.”
- Just as the Jews were preserved in Corrie’s home during the Holocaust, following God’s will will preserve us in this increasingly wicked world
- 1. Immerse yourself in the scriptures this week. Commit to one simple change that will bring your scripture study to a higher level.
- 2. Thank God for the fleas in your life! Think of something that’s making your life difficult, and thank God for it. Try to find the blessings that have come from that particular trial.
The story of Corrie Ten Boom during the Holocaust is miraculous and inspiring, and it’s beautifully recorded in the book The Hiding Place. Hear some of my favorite insights from this incredible story of a Christian family helping Jews and God helping them.
I’m Liz Kazandzhy, and you’re listening to the cozy little podcast “Latter-day Saint Book Nook,” where we talk about books from a gospel perspective. Whether fiction or nonfiction, religious or not, great books are like wells of wisdom just waiting to be drawn from, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So if you love books, and you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re in the right place. Come and learn from the best books to help you live your best life!
Hello, and welcome! I’m so glad you’re listening, especially today because I’m going to talk about an amazing book, The Hiding Place. Holy cow—if you have not read this book, go and get it and read it because it’s so good. It’s seriously like my new favorite book, and I’m so excited to delve into some of the things I learned from it.
So just as an FYI, this episode will have spoilers in it. But since this is a WWII memoir, spoilers aren’t that big of a deal as in like fiction. So if you haven’t read the book, you’re probably fine to still listen to this.
Alright, so today’s book, like I mentioned is The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom, and it was published back in 1971. And I love that word triumphant because it perfectly describes Corrie’s life. In short, it’s about a woman in her 50s during World War II who became a leader in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in her home and eventually being sent to a concentration camp as a consequence of that. She and her family were valiant Christians, and their faith plays out all throughout the book. So not only is it a fascinating book historically, but I think its greatest value is how faith-promoting it is. And in this episode, I’m just gonna jump from topic to topic about the things that touched me the most.
Why so many Holocaust books?
So, the first thought I had when I started this book was, “I’ve read so many WWII books—both nonfiction and fiction. Why is this genre is so popular?” I had just finished a different book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is a great book by the way, which also takes place during WWII. And I got to thinking, “Why is this such a popular topic?” I mean, with so much evil that happened during the Holocaust, why do we gravitate toward it so much?
And then I realized, it’s because of the evil that we gravitate toward it. Not the evil itself—but the courageous, valiant response to it. As this book says at one point, “In darkness, God’s truth shines most clear,” and also, “No pit is so deep that God is not deeper still.” And I hate that the Holocaust happened, and I hate that so much evil was done by so many people, but I’m so grateful for the inspiring stories about the good that was done during that time, also by so many people. And it’s such a good reminder that in our day, we can be the ones who do good despite all the evil around us.
What makes a hero?
So, two quick things I’ll mention about Corrie Ten Boom. First, like I said before, she was in her fifties when World War II started, and she and her sister Betsie, who also played a big role in the book, were single, which at that time was kind of a big deal, right? You’ve got terms like “old maid” and “spinster,” and according to worldly standards at the time, they didn’t hold much value in society—just these two middle-aged women helping their elderly father in his watch shop. But guess what? Turns out that God doesn’t care about age or gender or occupation or marital status—He cares about our hearts, and oh what wonderful hearts the Ten Boom family had.
I also love that Corrie did not even intend to become some kind of hero. She almost kind of just stumbled on it. When some Jews came to their home seeking refuge, she let them in. She asked her brother for help in finding them a safer place to live, and after her nephew helped transport them and she was asking him the details, he replied, “If you’re going to work with the underground, you must learn not to ask questions.” And it was only then that she realized, “Oh wow … I’m a part of the underground.” And within a short time, their home had become the headquarters for this illegal and incredible operation, and Corrie was at the very center of it.
So anyway, what I got from this is that if you want to be a hero, you don’t need to set off to be a hero. All you need to do is strive to do the right thing and let the Lord lead you. Because He will use you—maybe not in a way as incredible as Corrie Ten Boom, but in a way unique to you and what you can offer the world. And like I said, it doesn’t matter how old you are, how educated you are, how rich you are, or how eloquent you are. As Elder James E. Faust said, “You can be powerful instruments in the hands of God…. You are valued and needed…. You can do something for another person that no one else ever born can do.”
God doesn’t make us bear everything at once
Another person in the book that I absolutely loved was Corrie’s father. He was just so sweet and wise and righteous that it’s no wonder those characteristics were passed on to his children, all of whom helped Jews during World War II. And there’s one story I wanted to share about a teaching moment between him and Corrie—something that first made me laugh and then really stuck with me. He had taken Corrie with him on a little work trip, and they were on a train on their way home. And this is what Corrie said about this one trip:
Oftentimes I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me. Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her. In those days just after the turn of the century, sex was never discussed, even at home.
And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”
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.
Isn’t that a great story? I love the answer Corrie’s father gave, and I love he didn’t answer right away. If it were me, I feel like I probably wouldn’t stumbled over my words trying to give an adequate answer, but I think what he did was really think about it, and also probably prayed about it as well. And, after listening to the gentle guidance of the Spirit, he finally gave that inspired answer. That really makes me want to slow down with my own children and be more deliberate and prayerful about what I say to them and how I teach them.
Another reason this scene was so memorable is because Corrie, throughout the book, kept recalling this episode, not thinking so much about her earthly father anymore but referring to her Heavenly Father. Over and over again, she came across questions that were too hard to answer, events that were too hard to bear, and she’d pray to God and ask Him to carry it for her. And He did.
As the Lord says in the Book of Mormon, “I will … ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, … that ye may know … that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (Mosiah 24:14) And that’s something you see all throughout this book: that the Lord truly visits His people in their afflictions.
The power of the scriptures
And that brings me to another point, which is how the Lord sustained them. You can obviously see the influence of the Holy Ghost and how the Spirit brought them comfort and revelation, but another huge part was the scriptures, which Corrie and Betsie treasured so much and shared with others at every possible moment. And it was amazing to read how the Lord helped preserve these scriptures and their ministry.
For example, early in prison, Corrie managed to get a hold of a Bible, and that Bible went undetected despite so many searches and transports and checkpoints. And hearing their experiences with the scriptures made me want to feast on them more and rely on them more in hard times. Just listen to this powerful passage about when they got to the concentration camp:
[Life] grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.
But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were not shown. As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors. … It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute—poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not ‘we shall be’. We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.
That was just such a powerful reminder to me of what the scriptures can offer us. In the Book of Mormon, Ether taught that “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world … which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men” (Ether 12:4). No matter what we’re going through, that “hope for a better world” can be our anchor, just like it was for Corrie and Betsie and all those who listened to their words.
Well, with that, we’re going to take a quick break, and then I’ll finish up with a few more powerful things I learned from this book.
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Alright, so in this second half I want to talk about some of the miracles that happened in The Hiding Place, which testify so wonderfully of God and His power.
As I was reading, I kept remembering the question in the Book of Mormon, “Have miracles ceased?” And the answer Mormon gives, of course, is, “Nay!” (Moroni 7:29) because God is a God of miracles “yesterday, today, and forever.” So here are just a few miracles that stood out to me in the book.
The miracle of the vitamin oil
First, there was a moment in the concentration camp when Corrie and Betsie had a little jar of vitamin oil that the women were in dire need of. And let me go ahead and just read this passage for you:
Another strange thing was happening. The Davitamon bottle was continuing to produce drops. It scarcely seemed possible, so small a bottle, so many doses a day. Now, in addition to Betsie, a dozen others on our pier were taking it.
My instinct was always to hoard it—Betsie was growing so very weak! But others were ill as well. It was hard to say no to eyes that burned with fever, hands that shook with chill. I tried to save it for the very weakest—but even these soon numbered fifteen, twenty, twenty-five. . . .
And still, every time I tilted the little bottle, a drop appeared at the top of the glass stopper. It just couldn’t be! I held it up to the light, trying to see how much was left, but the dark brown glass was too thick to see through.
“There was a woman in the Bible,” Betsie said, “whose oil jar was never empty.” She turned to it in the Book of Kings, the story of the poor widow of Zarephath who gave Elijah a room in her home: “The jar of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of Jehovah which he spoke by Elijah.”
Well—but—wonderful things happened all through the Bible. It was one thing to believe that such things were possible thousands of years ago, another to have it happen now, to us, this very day. And yet it happened, this day, and the next, and the next, until an awed little group of spectators stood around watching the drops fall onto the daily rations of bread.
Many nights I lay awake … trying to fathom the marvel of supply lavished upon us. “Maybe,” I whispered to Betsie, “only a molecule or two really gets through that little pinhole—and then in the air it expands!”
I heard her soft laughter in the dark. “Don’t try too hard to explain it, Corrie. Just accept it as a surprise from a Father who loves you.”
And then one day, Mien, [a young Dutch woman we had met in another camp], pushed her way to us in the evening food line. “Look what I’ve got for you!”
“Vitamins!” I cried. “Yeast compound!”
“Yes!” she hissed back. “There were several huge jars. I emptied each just the same amount.”
We gulped the thin turnip water, marveling at our sudden riches. Back at the bunk I took the [vitamin] bottle from the straw. “We’ll finish the drops first,” I decided.
But that night, no matter how long I held it upside down, or how hard I shook it, not another drop appeared.
This was one of my favorite stories in the book. Because, like Corrie said, it’s one thing to hear about these miracles happening thousands of years ago—but it’s another thing to hear of something like that happening just 80 years ago.
And by the way, there weren’t just big miracles that happened to them. There were also smaller, more subtle ones—tender mercies from the Lord. And it’s often the same in our lives. Your circumstances are probably not as dire as Corrie Ten Boom’s, but you have the same Father in Heaven who is lovingly watching over you no matter what you’re going through. In the words of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time! He who created and knows the stars knows you and your name.”
The miracle of the fleas
So, the second miracle I wanted to mention came about in an unexpected way. When Corrie and Betsie got to their permanent barracks in the concentration camp, besides it being extremely cramped, they had another huge problem—fleas. The place was swarming with fleas.
Corrie asked her sister, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?” and Betsie began praying about it. After a few moments, she exclaimed, “Corrie! He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again.” So Corrie got out the Bible and reread that morning’s passage in First Thessalonians, which included the phrase, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances.” And here I’ll start reading straight from the book:
“That’s it, Corrie!” Betsie replied. “That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
I stared at her, then around at the dark, foul-aired room.
“Such as?” I said.
“Such as being assigned here together.”
I bit my lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus.”
“Such as what you’re holding in your hands!”
I looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”
“Yes,” said Betsie. “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at me expectantly. “Corrie!” she prodded.
“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”
“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for—”
The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’” she quoted. “It doesn’t say ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
Well, in case that story wasn’t touching enough in and of itself, it gets even better. Betsie was too sick for normal camp labor, and so she got to stay in the barracks knitting socks every day, and when she’d get done, she’d use the rest of the time to read the Bible to her fellow prisoners. And, miraculously, the guards never ventured into their barracks, and so she got away with it without being discovered and punished. Then one evening, when Corrie and Betsie met back together at the end of the day, Betsie was in an especially good mood, and this is what the book says next:
“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.
“You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well—I’ve found out.”
That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t,” Betsie said. “She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!'”
My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.
Isn’t that incredible? And the lesson Corrie Ten Boom shared about this story while traveling is to “thank God for the fleas”—those trying things in your life that are so hard to understand or appreciate but which God can use for His purposes—whatever those are.
And you know what else I thought about? You could see this as a story of gratitude on one hand and the mercy and power of God on the other hand, but what if those two events were actually related? In other words, what if their gratitude actually brought about that power of God that preserved them? I feel like their faith was so strong, and if they had prayed the fleas away, maybe those pests would’ve disappeared—who knows? But resolving one problem would’ve caused way more problems later on. But they didn’t pray the fleas away—they followed the Spirit and thanked God for them, and God in turn blessed them with His protection.
And if you want to ponder more about this topic, I suggest you read Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “Grateful in Any Circumstances,” where he even quotes that same scripture that Betsie read in the Bible. And here’s just one quote that reminded me of The Hiding Place:
Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful!
The miracle of love
Now, there’s one more miracle I wanted to mention, and I’ll call it “the miracle of love.” In her twenties, Corrie experience the heartbreak of breaking up with her boyfriend Karel. And, in another beautiful teaching moment, her father told her this:
Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
God loves Karel—even more than you do—and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us his perfect way.
And then Corrie went on to say this:
I did not know, as I listened to Father’s footsteps winding back down the stairs, that he had given me more than the key to this hard moment. I did not know that he had put into my hands the secret that would open far darker rooms than this—places where there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all.
Years later, Corrie was confronted with the heartrending task of applying this principle when, after the war, she met one of the Germans jailers who she had recognized from the concentration camp. She had just spoken at a church service when he came up to her afterward, and this is what Corrie said happened next:
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often … the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
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.
What a beautiful, vital message. And that’s something I want to remember the next time I’m having a hard time loving somebody—that when I can’t find that love within myself, I can always find it in God.
God’s will is our hiding place
Okay, so I know this episode is running a bit longer than my other ones, but it’s because this book is just SO good! And I’ve only shared a fraction of what this book offers, so still definitely read it sometime if you haven’t already.
But anyway, the last thing I wanted to say before my takeaway invitations is about the title, “The Hiding Place.” The obvious meaning of that is about how the Ten Boom family offered a hiding place for Jews during the Holocaust. But there’s also another meaning that shines through at the very end which you can almost miss if you’re not careful. And it’s when Corrie is remembering when Betsie said, “There are no ifs in God’s kingdom. His timing is perfect. His will is our hiding place. Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will! Don’t let me go mad by poking about outside it.”
How beautiful is that? God’s will is our hiding place. In the words of Psalm 32, “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” Just as the Jews were preserved in Corrie’s home during the Holocaust, following God’s will will preserve us in this increasingly wicked world.
Well, as always, here are a few invitations for you to consider.
1. Immerse yourself in the scriptures this week, just like Corrie and Betsie did with their Bible. Basically, however you’re studying the scriptures right now, do something to take your study to the next level. For example, if you’re reading every once in a while, try reading every day instead. If you’re reading 10 minutes, try 20 minutes. Or if you’re just reading, try to start writing your thoughts as well. Just commit to one simple change that will bring your scripture study to a higher level.
2. Thank God for the fleas in your life! Think of something that’s making your life difficult, and thank God for it. Try to find the blessings that have come from that particular trial.
Well, friends—that is all for this episode! Next week, tune in to learn more about my book, The Holy Ghost from A to Z, which will be released next Tuesday! Oh, and here’s a secret—you can actually order it from CedarFort.com right now and get it even earlier than that. I just got my author copies and I can tell you that it turned out beautifully—a stunning cover to match what I hope you’ll find to be a powerful book.
Anyway, thank you again for listening, and I wish you a wonderful week!
Thanks for listening to Latter-day Saint Book Nook, hosted by Liz Kazandzhy! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. You can also visit ldsbooknook.com to stay up to date with me and the podcast. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you next time!