Nazi concentration camp: One prisoner's journey

Corrie ten Boom descended into the nightmare of the concentration camp and used her faith to survive. Photo: Towers still stand at Vught Concentration Camp

FORT WORTH, Texas, April 2, 2013 — An old man was arrested and dragged out of his happy home by the Gestapo in February 1944. The officer in charge told him that if he behaved himself, he would be back home soon and able to die in his own bed.

Hearing this, 84-year-old Casper ten Boom straightened up, looked the officer square in the eye and avowed, ““I will [always] open my door to anyone who knocks for help.” 


SEE RELATED: Christians who saved Jews from the Nazis (video)


It wasn’t a question of if he should do it; the elder ten Boom and his family couldn’t conceive of not helping those in need. They believed and lived the words of Christ as stated in Matthew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Casper’s father, Willem had started a weekly prayer service in 1844 to pray for the Jewish people and the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6.) The family and their friends had gathered and prayed every week for 100 years by the time of their arrest.

Their belief would cost them plenty, but they wouldn’t have had it any other way.


SEE RELATED: St. Joseph’s Day: A day to wear red


The ten Booms’ first stop was Scheveningen prison, where guards separated them from one another. Corrie shared her cell with three other women. Already sick, she became very ill and guards took her to the prison hospital.

One of the ovens at Ravensbrück

The doctor told the police that she needed to stay, but they took her back, this time to a solitary cell. Before leaving the hospital, however, a nurse slipped Corrie a small package that contained a toothbrush, soap and a booklet of the four Gospels.

Corrie worried about her family. It was impossible to learn anything about them since no one spoke to her. One day there were no guards present, the jailers having gone to a party in honor of Hitler’s birthday.

Able to talk freely, Corrie found out her father Casper died ten days after arriving at the prison. Heartbroken but faithful, she wrote on her prison wall, “Father released.”

Sister Nollie, brother Willem and nephew Peter were free. Only she and Betsie were still there. Soon Ministries reports of their existence: “There was no bed….just a dirty straw mattress with only one blanket, which someone had been sick on. The cell was bitterly cold. The only food was a plate of thin porridge each morning and one piece of black bread in the evening.”

While there, Nollie got word to Corrie that the refugees in the hiding place were safe. Next Corrie faced a hearing with a Gestapo officer. Fearful, she prayed, “Lord Jesus you were once questioned too. Please show me what to do.”

During the next several days of interrogation Corrie kept her composure and the officer even questioned her quite a bit about Jesus and the love of God. The man sincerely wanted to know more.

Used at Ravensbrück: As punishment, women had to pull this roller until they died.

In those lonely days of confinement she found a friend in an ant that crawled in through a crack in the floor and she shared her crumbs with the little fellow. Corrie reread the gospels over and over. Soon she saw Jesus’ suffering in a whole new light. She realized that her own suffering might have a purpose for good too.

The next leg of the cruel journey took them in June 1944 to Vught Concentration Camp in southern Holland. When boarding the train Corrie saw Betsie and went to her. They were never apart again.

At Vught, the captives lived in barracks. Life was hard and punishments severe. Soon a rumor spread through camp that the Allies had invaded Europe and were heading in their direction. This gave them great hope.

Those hopes were dashed one day as guards executed 700 male prisoners and the women were herded onto trains. The Allies were getting close and in response the Nazis rounded up the prisoners, sending them to Ravensbruk Concentration Camp in Germany.

This was the only major Nazi concentration camp for women. JewishGen describes the horrific conditions: “Life there was as shameful and difficult as in all the other concentration camps — death by starvation, beating, torture, hanging, and shooting happened daily.”

For Corrie, Betsie and the rest of the so-called “criminals,” the worst was yet to come. But the worst couldn’t steal the hope of the two sisters.

They aimed to comfort those around them as it says in the book of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  ~ John 1:5

*******

Return to learn how Corrie and Betsie dealt with the horrors at Ravensbruk and how they helped to keep their ordeal from breaking themselves and others. Discover how the lowest of vermin was an agent of saving grace. 


READ MORE from Claire in Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soul


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Claire Hickey

Claire has held a Texas Cosmetology License, Certification in Surgical Technology and has decorated cakes professionally. She believes that life is a banquet to be experienced and wants to learn and do as much as possible while she’s here. This Stay @ Home Mom has always loved to write and thanks to the Communities @ The Washington Times has got her chance. Her curiosity and writing lead her to create her column based on “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought provoking pieces that enrich her readers. A proud member and Treasurer for the Greater Fort Worth Writer’s Group she is currently working on her first novel.  

 

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