I have done what is just and right;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
do not let the godless oppress me.
My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
and for the fulfilment of your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
and teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:114-117; 121-124
For the ten Boom family the Psalmist’s plea, “Guarantee your servant’s well-being,” was not to be. A pious Dutch family at the outbreak of WW 2, when the Germans occupied their country, they refused to comply with the Nazi orders to turn in any Jews of which they were aware. Caspar ten Boom (Arthur O’Connell) even tried to wear the armband with the yellow Star of David as a show of solidarity with his Jewish neighbors. “If we all wore them, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Jew and the Gentile,” he declares. His wife and all of his sons and his two daughters Corrie (Jeannette Clift) and Betsie (Julie Harris) agreed that their home should be used to shelter any Jew who needed their help.
Mr. ten Boom, who ran a clock/watch shop, was devout man, and apparently took the Scriptures more seriously than his pastor—we see the latter discouraging him from harboring Jews because of the danger. The family goes ahead anyway, making contact with the underground and preparing their house as a safe haven. They learn the art of deception, such as arranging for a signal to be sounded if Germans enter the house., upon which the “guests” must turn over their mattresses because the Nazis always feel the beds to see if there is a warm spot indicating it was recently occupied. They prepare a secret room where the fugitives can wait out any unwelcome visitors.
Neither they nor their Jewish guests are depicted as saints. As in The Diary of Ann Frank, they are ordinary people under great pressure, such as the complaining teacher Mr. Weinstock, who is obviously used to better living conditions. He refuses to honor the request that all guests share in the house-keeping chores. Nonetheless, life does go on for the household, with the Jews on occasion having to hurriedly gather up their dishes and rush to their hiding place when they hear the signal. We see the broad love of Mr. ten Boom when he asks one of the guests to give the table blessing. In a beautiful moment of interfaith sharing the Jew recites in Hebrew the traditional blessing of the table.
Eventually the Nazis are apparently tipped off. They arrest the ten Booms, but the Jews remain safely hidden as the ten Booms are herded away. Interrogated, they are trucked off to Ravensbrück camp where the faith of the two sisters is sorely tested. It is Betsie who sees the hand of God in everything, even the lice that infest their beds when the disgusted Corrie complains about them. the next thing they know they are told by fellow prisoners that their barrack is their one place of privacy in the overcrowded camp, the guards not entering because of their fear of becoming infected with the lice.
The subsequent fate of Betsie and of the other members of the family is a tragic yet inspiring one a powerful testimony to the power of the gospel to sustain believers in the direst of circumstances. There is a touching coda to the film in which we see the real Corrie ten Boom, the only surviving member of her family. Indeed, Corrie’s memoir, forming the basis for the film, stands in a long line of testimonies to the power of faith, courage and love to withstand the onslaught of the darkest forms that evil can take.
1) The film indicates that the Dutch people as a whole acted differently in regard to the Nazi policy toward the Jews from the conquered peoples of eastern Europe: what was the difference? What was the motivation of the ten Booms in deciding to hide Jewish fugitives?
2) Compare Mr. ten Boom with his pastor. A case of the sheep leading the shepherd?
3) The film does not fall into the trap of depicting all Germans as evil and all those who opposed them as saintly. What are some examples of this?
4) How does their father’s statement “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still” help sustain the sisters during their trials? To see how the Psalmists used the concept of “the pit,” see Psalms 16, 28, 30, 40, 49, 50, 57, 69, 88, 103, and 143; also vs.7-10 of Psalm 139 conveys the same meaning.
5) How is Betsie’s belief that even lice are part of God’s purpose a working out of Romans 8:28-39? Have you been able to see this in some of the unpleasant things that have happened in your life?
6) Corrie struggles with the problem that most of us have in regard to enemies, in her case her feeling of hatred for the Nazi matron who abused Betsie. How have you dealt with hatred and the commandment to love our enemies?
7) What does the film teach us about the struggle between good and evil? Of the role of God in this struggle? Of our desire for peace and safety and our call to live the gospel?