Holocaust survivor forgave concentration camp guard

Published 11:29 pm Friday, November 20, 2009

One of my favorite books, The Hiding Place, tells the life story of Corrie Ten Boom and her family who lived in Holland during World War II.

The book’s title describes a secret staircase and room of Corrie’s home where her family hid their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. Before the end of the war, the German soldiers discovered her family’s activities and arrested them. They were sent to a concentration camp called Ravensbruck.

Corrie Ten Boom was the only member of her family who returned home after the Holocaust. Due to an error in paperwork, she was mistakenly released from the concentration camp on December 28, 1944. Just a week later, an order was issued to kill all women her age and older.

Reading about her makes me wish I could have met this courageous lady. I did hear her speak on television during a Billy Graham crusade. I’ve been told that Corrie visited Covington County, spending Thanksgiving with Pat and Lou Brown on their farm.

After the war, Corrie began traveling in Europe and America telling about her experience of survival and sharing a message of God’s forgiveness. In her book, she relates an incident that happened while in Ravensbruck.

One day when she and her older sister, Betsie, were forced to stand naked, they saw a concentration camp matron beating another prisoner. “Oh, the poor woman,” Corrie cried. “Yes, may God forgive her,” Betsie replied. Corrie realized that her sister was once again praying for souls of the brutal Nazi guards.

Years later while Corrie Ten Boom was speaking to a group of people, she recognized a familiar face in the audience. The person approached her at the conclusion of her remarks, and Corrie felt anger growing inside her. The individual had been one of the guards at Ravensbruck. He’d asked God to forgive him for the cruel things he had done there, but he wanted to ask Corrie’s forgiveness as well.

Corrie said, “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.” She remembered Jesus words, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

She then grasped the hand of the former guard, “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.”

Among my collection of favorite quotations, several come from Corrie Ten Boom’s many books. She once wrote, “You never so touch the ocean of God’s love as when you forgive and love your enemies.” Corrie learned, “When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”