The Hiding Place

by

Corrie Ten Boom

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The Hiding Place: The Lieutenant Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One day, Corrie is taken to a “hearing”—she’s led outside of the prison to a cheerful cottage with a warm fire, where a German officer introduces himself courteously as Lieutenant Rahms and settles her by the fire. He tells her that he can help her, but only if she tells him everything. Corrie knows she has to be on guard against this calculated friendliness, and for an hour she evades his questions about fake ration cards. Luckily, she doesn’t actually know that much about the operation with which she’s been involved, due to the secrecy its members imposed on each other.
The contrast between the awful prison and the cheerful officers’ quarters is stark—physical differences like this are part of the Nazis’ campaign to deny the humanity of Jews and other prisoners, while affirming it in Germans. Corrie’s triumph is that she’s able to recognize the essential humanity in everyone, whether it’s a dirty and exhausted prisoner or a loathed German officer.
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When the Lieutenant asks about Corrie’s “other activities,” meaning hiding Jews, she feigns ignorance and embarks on a long explanation of her years of religious instruction of mentally disabled children. The lieutenant is genuinely perplexed, telling her that such things are a “waste of time and energy” and that “surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world.” Corrie sees that this man has been completely brainwashed by Nazi philosophy.
The Lieutenant’s seemingly unfeigned courtesy to Corrie contrasts with the horrifying prejudice he casually demonstrates. Here, Nazi intolerance again emerges as a threat not just to the group they specifically target—Jews—but to every conceivable marginalized group in society.
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Carefully, Corrie explains to Lieutenant Rahms that God cares about people “simply because he has made us,” not because of any artificial value the world imposes on them. Lieutenant Rahms abruptly ends the interrogation.
Even though Corrie has spoken gently, her words have struck an uncomfortable chord with the Lieutenant. Even though religious rhetoric can seem abstract or even cliché, it allows ordinary people to speak truth to power.
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Related Quotes
However, in the morning Lieutenant Rahms himself comes to Corrie’s cell and brings her to his office. He asks her to tell him about the Bible, and Corrie says that it says that with God’s help, “we need no longer walk in the dark.” She asks Lieutenant Rahms about the darkness in his own life, and he confesses that he can’t stand the work he does and is constantly worried about his wife and children suffering bombings in Germany.
Previously, people from different religions have united around their mutual respect for holy texts. Now, the Bible helps two enemies have a meaningful and respectful discussion, regardless of their divergent views. Not only does the Bible provide a connection to the divine, it facilitates such connections with other human beings.
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For two more days Corrie meets with the Lieutenant, who mostly wants to hear about her childhood and religious faith. Corrie asks him to have her transferred back into a cell with other people or even Betsie, but Lieutenant Rahms refuses, telling her that he has no authority and is “in prison” himself.
Even though the Lieutenant is critical and doubtful of his own work, he’s not truly motivated to take any action. The difference between him and someone like Rolf emerges through explicit moments like these, where they choose to fight or support injustice.
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At their last meeting, the Lieutenant asks Corrie to explain the divine meaning of suffering. He asks her what kind of God would let her father die in prison. However, before she can try to answer a guard comes to take her back. The lieutenant tells her softly to walk slowly in Corridor F.
Here, the Lieutenant touches on the very things that Corrie can’t explain. The fact that she’s physically prevented from answering this question reflects her belief that one doesn’t have to know the answer to every question to have strong religious faith.
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Following his instructions, Corrie sees Betsie’s cell, which is much neater and more cheerful than the others, with food packages neatly arranged. She knows that this atmosphere is the result of Betsie’s influence. She even sees her sister’s back and her neat bun.
Betsie’s work in arranging her cell may seem superficial, but it’s an extension of the housekeeping work she’s always done, which fosters a spirit of empathy and inclusion for everyone in the Beje. Betsie’s triumph is that she can cling to her best attributes even among the stresses of prison.
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Weeks later, Lieutenant Rahms organizes a brief family reunion at the prison—the pretext is the official reading of Father’s will, for which all family members must be present. Stunned, Corrie walks into his office to be embraced by Willem, Nollie, and Betsie for the first time in months. Willem says that Kik has been arrested and deported while helping a downed American parachutist; Father, meanwhile, died in a municipal hospital after becoming ill in his cell. While the lieutenant has his back turned, Nollie presses a tiny Bible into Corrie’s hands. Corrie is especially thankful because she has just given away her last Gospel in the shower.
Here Lieutenant Rahms actually does take a stand, however small, on behalf of Corrie and Betsie. The family’s gathering now is a positive contrast to Father’s lonely death. It’s also notable that Corrie is presented with a new Bible just as she’s given away all her Gospels—it suggests that people are rewarded when they are generous with their belongings, rather than hoarding them.
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Willem quietly relays the information that Rolf and another underground police officer helped the Jews escape from the Beje while they were assigned by the Gestapo to “guard” it. All of the fugitives are safe now except for Mary Itallie, who inexplicably went walking during the day and got arrested.
The fact that Rolf, a member of the Dutch police, was put on duty instead of Gestapo officers seems like a random piece of fortune—but for Corrie, it’s evidence of God’s personal intervention in favor of her work.
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After some minutes, the Lieutenant curtails the reunion. Before leaving, Willem leads the group in prayer, thanking God for bringing them together and for the influence of the Lieutenant, who can gain nothing from helping them.
Willem is quick to attribute their fortune in being able to reunite to God’s will. This is part of the family’s wholesale acceptance of every aspect of their lives as part of God’s plan.
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