War. It was early in the morning when we heard the bombs. We knew the sound of the explosions were coming from Schiphol, the airport near Haarlem. I ran to Betsie’s room and found her sitting up in bed, pale and shaking. We put our arms around each other and trembled with each blast; the wavering red glow was so eerie in the darkness of our once-peaceful skies.
We were afraid, but had learned from childhood how to cast our burdens on the Lord. We prayed like frightened children, running to their father for help and protection.
“Lord, make us strong . . . give us strength to help others.”
“Lord, take away our fear. Give us trust.”
It was a crisis of fear in both of us, but Jesus gave us the victory over it. We were never so frightened as we were during that night, not even when war and occupation destroyed our whole family life and everything we had known for more than a half a century. Was that night the Lord’s way of inoculating us in preparation for the future?
In the five days of war that followed, many people came to the house; Father was a pillar of strength for all of them; he prayed with everyone who asked. Sometimes the shock of what was happening would engulf me, and while Father was bringing trust and peace to those in turmoil, I would go to the piano and play Bach. No other music gave me so much rest.
The darkest time during those five days was when our royal family left, our Queen Wilhelmina for England and Crown Princess Juliana for Canada. We knew then that our case was hopeless.
There were not many times that I cried, but when I heard about the royal family leaving the country, I was heartbroken and wept. For the Dutch people, the Queen was our security—we loved her.
Then Holland surrendered. I walked in the street with Father, and everyone was talking to everyone else; in that moment there was a oneness, which I had never seen before. We were together in the great suffering, humiliation, and defeat of our nation. Although my heart was aching with misery, there was encouragement that people could be so united.
The German army marched through the Barteljorisstraat: tanks, cannons, cavalry, and hundreds and hundreds of soldiers. The narrow little street where Dot and I had played games—the alley where I had seen the drunks when I was only five and prayed for “all the people in the Smedestraat”—the path we had taken on Sunday to St. Bavo’s—all were filled with soldiers.
As the conquerors swept in, I noticed some of them were red-faced, shame written in their expressions. After the war, a German told me, “With every step I took in Holland, I felt ashamed. I knew I was occupying a neutral nation.”
Churches were packed in those days; the Psalms, which were written in times of great suffering, gained a new value. Ministers who had never preached about the Second Coming of Christ now chose their texts from the many places in the Bible on that subject.
In the beginning, we saw little change in our daily life, but gradually the enemy began to impose restrictions. At first the curfew was ten o’clock, which was not difficult for us, but later it was moved back to eight, then six. No one could leave his house; there was absolute blackout, and every window was covered with black paper as soon as the sun was down.
Telephones were cut off, food was rationed, and often after standing in long lines with our ration cards, we would find that the stores were empty.
One beautiful Sunday afternoon, Betsie, Father, and I were walking through our park, south of Haarlem, when the Gestapo descended and took all of the young fathers around us, who were out walking with their families, leaving distraught wives and crying children behind.
All Dutch people have bicycles, and sometimes the Gestapo set up a bicycle blockade. Everyone who rode by was summoned to give up his vehicle. If you were fortunate enough to keep your bicycle, you learned to ride without tires, because they were confiscated and taken to Germany.
We were not even safe in church. Once during a service in the cathedral, the Germans guarded the doors so that nobody could move. Then they opened one door and ordered every man from eighteen to forty to come out. They were sent that same day to Germany—many of these men were never seen again.
For more than thirty years since World War II, I have been a tramp for the Lord in more than sixty countries on all the continents of this troubled world. Many people have asked me about my childhood, youth, and the years before The Hiding Place. A person doesn’t spring into existence at the age of fifty; there are years of preparation, years of experience, which God uses in ways we may never know until we meet Him face to face. (from In My Father’s House by Corrie ten Boom)
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