It’s kind of ironic that on our first day in Europe, we went to a museum. We were still pretty jet-lagged, so we booked a 12 o’clock tour to get us out of bed.
We don’t usually visit museums (unless they are about World War II or food). In this case, the Corrie ten Boom museum is about WWII.
Why did we want to visit this muesum?
Let’s be honest, Amsterdam (like most big cities) is fully loaded with museums on every imaginable topic. Famous painters, the Red Light District, Dutch cheeseâ€”you name it. So why did we pick this one and not the others??
Because I read a book about Corrie ten Boom.
If you know me personally, then you probably know how much I read. (I average at least 1 book per week.) I like to read the Bible in the morning over breakfast. I’ll read a missionary biography in the afternoon or over lunch. And then I read a novel before bed.
Missionary biographies seem like a specific genre, and they are! I’ve learned that reading other people’s stories charges me toward a bolder faith in Jesus Christ. And that’s how I read Corrie ten Boom’s book.
Who is Corrie ten Boom?
Corrie ten Boom was the first female watchmaker in the Netherlands. She lived with her sister and father above their watch shop in Haarlem, Netherlands.
The entire ten Boom family were devout Christ followers. So as Hitler rose to power and the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis, Corrie could not turn a blind eye to their abuse of the jews.
In fact, her father tried to rally everyone to wear a Jewish star so that no one could actually tell who was a Jew and non-Jew. (Obviously that tactic did not last long.)
It started with one knock on the door, a man asking the ten Boom family for money to free his wife from prison for helping a Jew. From that moment onward, the ten Boom family became members of the Dutch resistance.
They helped over 800 Jews escape, hosted nightly bible readings in their living room, and had weekly prayer gatherings in their home as well.
An architect, also a member of the Resistance, helped build a secret room in the ten Boom house, along with multiple hiding places for ration cards, radios, and other banned items. Their home was actually two different buildings with varying ceiling heights, oddly joined together with a quirky spiral staircaseâ€”the perfect home for secret compartments.
The infamous “hiding place” once held 8 Jews and Resistance members for nearly 2 days straight when the ten Boom house was raided. Although Corrie, her sister, and her father were arrested (the raiders found a stack of ration cards), the hidden people were never found by the Gestapo…other Resistance members freed them when the coast was clear.
Corrie’s father died in prison a few days later. Corrie and her sister were taken to Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp. After malnourishment, fleas, and beatings, her sister died in that placeâ€”but only after she told Corrie about her vision of a lovely home that would one day serve as a care facility for WWII survivors.
A small clerical error meant that Corrie’s number was called and she was released from Ravensbruck. Days later, all the women from the camp that were in Corrie’s age group were sent to the gas chambers.
Corrie was the only survivor of the ten Boom family. She opened that recovery center that her sister dreamed of. She traveled to more than 60 countries preaching the gospel of Jesus and His good news of forgiveness.
Highlights of the Corrie ten Boom Museum
I knew the full ten Boom story before the tour, so the history came alive before my eyes. However, Brett did not know much about the family and still found the tour informative and engaging.
First, we sat in the ten Boom living room (the original room, but not the original furnishings, which were lost during the war). The walls were littered with photographs, which were highlighted as we were briefed (in English) on the ten Boom family history.
Then we were taken to Corrie’s bedroom, where the secret wall was erected. We had time to step into the chamber, see how they got in, and take photos.
Fun fact: the Jews climbed through the bottom shelf of a closet to get into the secret room. They could replace the shelf’s contents and close the door from inside using a clock mechanism (two chainsâ€”one to lower the door and another to open the door).
The last room of the tourâ€”with a few stairs and funky angled ceilingsâ€” held more photographs, including screenshots from the film, and information about what Corrie did after the war was over.
Fun fact: How were there so many photographs of the ten Boom family and their refugees? Another member of the Resistance was a photographer, who captured these moments and safely stored the film.
From this room there was a tiny window where the Jews could sneak up to a roof terrace that was not viewable from street level. It helped them get some fresh air and sunshine!
After one hour, the tour ended in the gift shop. Donations were accepted, and you could purchase any book that Corrie has written, along with handmade watches, pocket watches, bookmarks, and a few other tourist items. Otherwise, the tour was free.
Visiting the ten Boom House brought history to life
After reading The Hiding Place, I could imagine their home in my mind, complete with hiding places galore and plenty of generosity in the atmosphere. But a visit to their home was even better than reading a book or watching a movieâ€”it was like walking through a solemn place clothed in rich history.
If you’re interested in WWII or enjoy learning about missionaries, I highly recommend a visit to the Corrie ten Boom museum in Haarlem, Netherlands!
Other things we did on our day trip to Haarlem
- Stop for pastries at Westhoff (near the train station). Great spot for locals ride by on their bikes while having a snack. P.S. Check out the bike parking area right across the street too!
- Wander the canals and see the Molen de Adriaan windmill.
- Try raw herring in Grote Markt. (We bought from an older lady in a white food truck.)
- Sip on fresh mint tea at a cafe in the square.