A Holocaust Survivor’s Story of Forgiveness

English: Picture of Ten Boom Museum on the Bar...

English: Picture of Ten Boom Museum on the Barteljoristraat in Haarlem, the Netherlands. The house is a watch shop and museum dedicated to the memory of Corrie ten Boom and her family, who harbored war refugees during World War II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the Second World War, Corrie Ten Boom and her family showed great courage in helping to rescue Jewish people from the Nazis. Corrie’s involvement with the Dutch underground began with her acts of kindness in giving temporary shelter to her Jewish neighbors who were being driven out of their homes. Soon the word spread, and more and more people came to her home for shelter. As quickly as she would find places for them, more would arrive. She had a false wall constructed in her bedroom behind which people could hide.

 

After a year and a half, her home developed into the center of an underground ring that reached throughout Holland. Daily, dozens of reports, appeals, and people came in and out of their watch shop. She wondered how long this much activity and the seven Jews that they were hiding would remain a secret.

 

On February 28, 1944, while Corrie was 48 years old, a man came into the shop and asked Corrie to help him. He stated that he and his wife had been hiding Jews and that she had been arrested. He needed six hundred gilders to bribe a policeman for her freedom. Corrie promised to help. She found out later that he was an informant that had worked with the Nazis from the first day of the occupation. He turned their family in to the Gestapo. Later that day, her home was raided, and Corrie and her family were arrested (their Jewish visitors made it to the secret room in time and later were able to escape to new quarters). Her father died 10 days later from a sickness.

 

They were arrested and imprisoned by the Germans. Corrie and her sister were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where her sister died just before the end of the war in 1945. The rest of her family was never seen again. She spent the rest of her long life spreading the news of God’s forgiveness.

Here is a story of forgiveness, that she once shared. I still think it would have been almost impossible for me to ever have done…

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~A Guidepost article from 1972 relates a short story titled “I’m Still Learning to Forgive (Corrie TenBoom) ~

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. …

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. …

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.” “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”

And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” …

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each others’ hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

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Have you ever been hurt by someone and angry at them? How willing have you been to forgive them? Imagine the hurt and hate that Corrie had and how hard it must have been for her to forgive this man. Let’s use this story as an example of how we can forgive others, even though it may be very difficult, and make ourselves better people because of it.

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