Day 5 of spring break–we left Amsterdam and stopped in Haarlem on our way to Cologne.  Haarlem is the capital of the province of North Holland, and from the little we saw of it, it’s a really pretty city.  Our main reason for the stop was to see the Corrie ten Boom museum.  The ten Boom family was a Christian family who helped Jews find safe places during the Nazi regime.  Corrie ten Boom was a leader in this effort; she had a network of about 80 people whe worked with to help Jewish families.  Her father was a watchmaker and they lived above the store; there’s still still a watch and jewelry store there (although it’s not really connected with the family any longer).  They had a “hiding place” built behind a false wall in Corrie ten Boom’s bedroom.

The house is now a museum, and volunteers give tours there a few times a day.  The lady who gave our tour was very good.  First, we went into the living room and sat for a bit while she told us the story.  The furnishings are not original, but they do have a couple of clocks, some photographs, and a piece of needlework Corrie ten Boom did.  Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed except in the “hiding place” area.

The tour includes some of the other rooms, where they have some displays of ration cards, photographs, food canisters from the Liberation, etc.  The lady who gave the tour said she was a child during the war, and toward the end, right before the Liberation of Holland, they had no food and survived by eating beets and tulip bulbs.  She said the bread in the canisters was very hard–they had to soak it so it wouldn’t break their teeth–but they were glad to get it.  It’s just amazing what some of these people went through and survived.

The house, like many of the old European houses, is small, with very small rooms and narrow, steep staircases.  The hiding place was on the top floor, and they reached it through a tiny panel in the closet in Corrie ten Boom’s bedroom.  The bedroom itself is about the size of a good American walk-in closet.  The hiding place is maybe 7 feet wide and not quite 3 feet deep; it’s behind a brick wall with a vent to the outside of the house (for air).  The tour guide told us the six people hiding in the house at the time had practiced until they could all get in the hiding place, with their few belongings (so the items wouldn’t give them away), within 70 seconds.  When the ten Boom family was betrayed, six people hid in that space for two days, in the dark, in the cold because of the vent to the outside (it was February).  They were never caught, though–the Dutch underground managed to arrange for some of their people to relieve the Nazi guards in the house and helped them escape.  Unfortunately, Corrie ten Boom’s father died in prison, and her sister Betsie died in Ravensbruck, the concentration camp she and Corrie were sent to.  Her brother also died in prison, and her nephew was sent to Bergen-Belsen and died there (Bergen-Belsen also happens to be the concentration camp where Anne Frank died).

The web site for the Corrie ten Boom museum gives some of the history of the family and Corrie ten Boom herself.  I remember reading The Hiding Place a long time ago.  Corrie ten Boom was an incredible woman and her family definitely exemplified a commitment to God.  We really enjoyed the visit.

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The Corrie ten Boom house is just about a block from Grote Markt (the Market Square), which is an attractive area with a nice church, Sint-Bavokerk or St Bavo’s Church, and several restaurants (including, of course, McDonald’s).  We had lunch in the square (NOT at McDonald’s) and took this last chance to try the traditional Dutch poffertjes, which are like tiny little sweet pancakes.

Just a few hours, but we were glad we stopped to see just a tiny bit of the town–our last stop in Holland as we headed for Cologne.

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