While the evenings are enjoyable, the days grow more and more stressful. The operation centered around the Beje has grown very large, and dozens of workers, reports, and appeals pass through the house each day. There are so many ways to slip up or make a mistake.
While interconnectedness has always been the ten Boom family’s greatest strength, now it poses a threat to their safety.
One day during lunch, Corrie thinks she sees a spy outside the window. Looking out, she realizes it’s Katrien, one of the women hiding at Nollie’s house. In tears, Katrien wails that the Gestapo came to the house, where Nollie and Annaliese, another fugitive, were in the living room. When the Gestapo asked Nollie if Annaliese was a Jew, she admitted that she was. Katrien says bitterly that Nollie has gone mad, and Corrie is upset that her sister’s “rigid honesty” has gotten them all into trouble.
Nollie has done exactly the same thing as her daughter when the young girl had to answer questions about her brothers’ whereabouts. However, this time the tactic has gotten her and Annaliese in trouble—it’s clear that Corrie’s tactic of fulfilling God’s wishes, rather than conforming to rules, is probably more effective and appropriate.
Corrie jumps on her bike and pedals over to Nollie’s house. Everything looks normal outside, but a moment later Nollie and Annaliese appear, dragged by two men into waiting cars. That night Corrie learns that Nollie has been taken to the nearby police station, but Annaliese has been sent to the prison in Amsterdam from which Jews are deported to death camps.
This is one of the terrible moments at which Corrie hints in the first chapter. While it forms a stark contrast with the happiness and calm of the hundredth birthday party, Corrie’s earlier allusion to the things that “must” happen suggests that all these personal misfortunes are part of God’s plan, and as such must be accepted.
The cleaning woman at the jail, whose son Corrie has previously helped, helps them keep in touch with Nollie. She smuggles food and the blue sweater Nollie has requested, and reports that she is very cheerful, singing hymns each day. Corrie is disturbed that Nollie can be singing “when she had betrayed another human being,” but Nollie relays the message that God will not “let [Annaliese] suffer because I obeyed Him.”
When the cleaning woman first promised to repay Corrie, she didn’t believe that this would ever be necessary or possible; now she sees even the humblest person prove herself brave and able. Her frustration with Nollie—the strongest family strife Corrie ever describes—shows their thorny, mutual uncertainty about how best to serve God’s will.
Six days later, Pickwick calls and summons Corrie to his house. He tells her that Annaliese is free, having been liberated with forty other Jews during a rescue at the Amsterdam prison. Corrie is astonished and grateful, wondering how Nollie had been so sure that this would happen.
Here, Nollie’s outlook on morals seems validated—Corrie sees her sister’s action as a kind of premonition, and the outcome as a divine reward for her faithfulness.
Nollie herself is transferred to another prison in Amsterdam, but Pickwick knows a sympathetic German doctor who sometimes can arrange a medical discharge for people. Corrie travels to see him, wondering how she can ingratiate herself with this man. When she reaches his house, she sees that he has three Doberman pinschers, and engages him in conversation about dogs for several minutes before revealing the real reason for her visit.
By surreptitiously cultivating the doctor’s goodwill, Corrie sets herself apart from the straightforward and rigid honesty to which Nollie clings. However, even if Corrie herself believes that Nollie holds the moral high ground, it’s she who has the capacity to get her sister out of prison.
Corrie tells the doctor that Nollie isn’t physically strong, and emphasizes that she’s the mother of six children who need her to provide for them (leaving out the fact that Nollie’s youngest child is now sixteen). The doctor says he’ll see what he can do, but weeks pass with no word. Corrie returns to Amsterdam, but this time the doctor dismisses her brusquely, telling her to be patient.
Corrie’s telling a fib here, not with her actual words but with their implications. The doctor’s rough dismissal of her worries is a reminder that Corrie is involved in a wide network of political calculations, in which she is far from the most powerful player.
During the weeks of waiting, Corrie is serving lunch to seventeen people at the Beje when one guest notices someone looking through the curtain. He’s ostensibly washing the windows, although Betsie hasn’t ordered this. In a moment of inspiration, Eusie starts singing “Happy Birthday,” in order to make the lunch look like a celebration rather than an illicit gathering. Corrie goes outside and confronts the man, who claims that he’s arrived at the wrong house by mistake. Trying to bluff, Corrie invites him inside, but he just walks away down the street.
The communal action of eating a meal together, an old tradition at the house, is warped by the tense circumstances and sense of vulnerability. Eusie’s happy birthday song, a clever effort to evade detection, is a sad contrast to the hundredth birthday party at the beginning of the novel, which was characterized by a general sense of security and well-being.
The group starts running another kind of drill to test Corrie’s ability to handle the Gestapo. Over and over, Henk, Leendert, Rolf, and her nephews wake her up in the middle of the night, shining lights in her face and demanding to know where she’s hiding the Jews. Corrie finds it almost impossible to lie. When one of them asks “where your nine Jews are,” she immediately responds that she only has six now; one night, when asked where she hides the ration cards, Corrie thinks of a “crafty” response and says that they’re hidden inside a clock, instead of under the stairs. It’s another moment before she realizes that she needs to pretend she doesn’t have any ration cards hidden at all.
The difficulty with which Corrie learns to lie reflects her religious upbringing, in which she was taught to avoid falsehood at all costs. This moment is a turning point from earlier episodes in which the family discussed the finer moral issues of what kinds of lies are acceptable. Now, it’s clear that the safety of many people depends on Corrie’s ability to lie completely and believably. In this case, it’s clear that even though she’s teaching herself how to break God’s rules, she’s still fulfilling His will.
Willem frequently visits Haarlem. His own work is making him stressed and almost desperate. He’s been able to hide most of the elderly Jews in his care, but some have been taken away despite their age. He knows he’s being watched constantly by the Gestapo. He starts conducting weekly prayer services at the Beje, both to provide a reason for his regular visits and to give a legitimate reason for the large numbers of people coming and going from the house.
Although Willem and Corrie are each conducting different operations and limit their contact to avoid suspicion, it’s clear that they aid and support each other along the way. Their relationship is a testament to the effectiveness in activism that’s based in strong family networks.
One night everyone is sitting around after dinner when someone knocks on the door. Corrie hears German spoken outside. She opens the door to reveal Otto, their former apprentice—except now he pushes his way inside the house, demanding to be called Captain Altschuler. Clearly reveling in his new power, Otto asks after “the pious old Bible reader,” meaning Father, and demands to be invited upstairs. Corrie surreptitiously presses the buzzer button and dawdles for as long as possible before bringing him upstairs.
While Betsie and Father always remind Corrie of the importance of forgiveness, Otto is reveling in the opportunity to take revenge on his erstwhile employer. This moment contrasts with later episodes in which Corrie has the opportunity to avenge herself against her foes but turns it down.
When Otto bursts into the dining room, only Father and Betsie are sitting at the table. Corrie herself can barely believe that twelve people were gathered here only minutes before. Otto sits down at the table and taunts the family for fifteen minutes; then, with no one rising to the bait, he leaves. Corrie waits another half hour before giving the all-clear signal.
Otto clearly wanted to gain some psychological boost by showing off his new power, but instead he leaves frustrated, having accomplished nothing. Vengeful actions are not only hurtful to others, they are destructive to the person who performs them.
In October, Nollie suddenly calls home. She’s been released and is waiting at the Amsterdam train station with no money. Corrie gathers Flip and the children, and they hurry onto the next train to Amsterdam; at the station they see her immediately, wearing her blue sweater. She’s puzzled at the reason for her release—a doctor has announced that her six young children might become a burden to society without her care.
Nollie’s sudden release from prison and abandonment at the train station foreshadows similar events in Corrie’s future, and helps create the sense that the family’s lives follow a pattern—however, she will be released under tragic circumstances and in terrible physical shape.
It’s almost Christmas, 1943. The holiday isn’t very cheerful, as everyone seems to have family members hiding or deported. The ten Booms are not only celebrating the Christian holiday but Hanukkah as well. Every night they light one more candle as Eusie reads the ancient story aloud and sings the haunting traditional songs. On the fifth night, a kindly neighbor knocks on the door and asks Corrie if “your Jews could sing a little more softly.” The family is touched to know that the neighbors know what’s going on and haven’t reported them, but worried that it’s growing harder and harder to avoid notice.
By according Hanukkah the same importance as Christmas, the ten Booms are demonstrating their respect for Judaism; valuing each other’s holidays allows the group to grow closer together and improves morale. The revelation that Corrie’s neighbor knows what she’s doing and hasn’t told anyone is another instance of an ordinary person who makes an explicit choice, no matter how small, to participate in her lifesaving work.
One morning Toos brings a letter to Corrie from the chief of police, ordering her to report to his office that afternoon. She has no idea what’s going to happen, but she packs a bag of supplies in case she gets arrested. All day workers prepare the house for a search, removing all incriminating evidence.
The matter-of-factness with which Corrie confronts the possibility of her own imprisonment is a reminder of her stoicism about personal misfortune, springing from her belief that everything happening to her is part of God’s plan.
However, when Corrie arrives, the chief of police says that he knows about her work and sympathizes with her; in fact, he himself is part of an underground organization within the police. However, another policeman is leaking information to the Gestapo, putting dozens of people in danger. The chief has called Corrie to see if she knows anyone in her operation who can kill this man.
That so many people have found out about Corrie’s work without her knowledge is disturbing, even if the chief is sympathetic. Here, Corrie is being asked to participate in resistance work that entails moral dilemmas much more serious than her worries about petty deception.
Carefully, Corrie says that her role is “to save life, not destroy it.” She can’t help him, but she offers to pray with him. Together they bow their heads and pray that this errant Dutchman will change his ways. Corrie returns home and tells everyone that they are safe, but she doesn’t say that they’ve been asked to aid in a murder, fearing that Father and Betsie will be upset.
Even though Corrie is willing to break earthly laws and some divine rules in order to work in the underground, she clearly knows when she must stop. Her rebuff of this request shows that she can be flexible in her interpretation of religious teachings while still adhering to fundamental principles.
Now it’s clear that their work is becoming less and less secret. Corrie knows she should curtail her operation, but to do so would jeopardize hundreds of people. Instead, she continues as always and waits for disaster.
Corrie’s passivity here contrasts with her normally proactive approach to maximizing the safety of her work—possibly because she believes that she has more to lose and is willing to sacrifice herself.
The first strike comes to Jop, the apprentice. One afternoon Rolf arrives with information that an underground house will be searched that night. Jop volunteers to bring the message, even though he’s not very experienced. However, he never comes back. The next day Rolf arrives with the news that Jop himself has been caught up in the raid and brought to Amsterdam, where the interrogators will probably get information out of him.
It’s saddening that this catastrophe falls on Jop, one of the youngest members of the underground. Even though Corrie is willing to sacrifice herself for her work, she can do this without implicating many other people who are comparatively uninvolved, like Jop.
Corrie, Father, and Betsie stay up praying long after everyone has gone to sleep. In spite of increasing danger, they see no choice except to keep moving forward. Corrie thinks that perhaps when “human effort” is completely exhausted, “God’s power” will be revealed.
Corrie’s work demonstrates her belief that humans must make every possible effort to fulfill God’s will, but she also ultimately believes that all such efforts are inadequate. One of the conclusions she draws from her faith is the importance of hard work, even when such work is doomed to fail.