In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom and her family help dozens of Jews escape the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Holland. An extremely religious family, the ten Booms are defined by their religious beliefs. However, rather than seeing religion as something that sets them apart or makes them better than others, the ten Booms feel that tolerance and inclusivity are among Christianity’s strongest imperatives. Corrie portrays tolerance—of religious minorities and other marginalized groups—not just as a reaction to the Nazi occupation, but as a core part of her family’s ethos. Moreover, she repeatedly points out the inherent intolerance of Nazi Germany, arguing that its attitude threatens all Dutch people, not just the groups it explicitly targets.
Even prior to World War II, Corrie’s family not only tolerates but actively befriends Jews. Their version of Christianity drives them not only to see the essential humanity in all people, but also to identify with other religious people, no matter their specific faith. Corrie fondly recalls childhood visits to Father’s Jewish business associates, many of whom become close family friends. As a girl, she often observes hours-long religious discussions in which Father and his friends share their love for the Old Testament and appreciate the intricacies of each other’s faith, rather than competing or trying to convert each other. Later, Father bonds instantly with a particularly religious Jew, Meyer, who seeks shelter at their house. It’s clear that his lifelong embrace of tolerance inspires him to take risks for Jews during the war.
Similarly, prior to the war, Corrie’s older brother Willem is a Dutch Reformed pastor charged with converting Jews in the Dutch community; however, he actually sets up a nursing home for elderly Jews, caring for them without seriously attempting to challenge their religious convictions. In fact, it’s through Willem’s connections that Corrie first becomes involved with the Dutch underground. Like Father, Willem’s wartime activism is a direct outgrowth of the tolerance he’s practiced throughout his life.
In some sense, the ten Booms’ respect for Jews stems from their conception of Judaism as a precursor to Christianity; Corrie views her friend Harry de Vries as a particularly sympathetic and heroic Jew because he has converted to Christianity, while maintaining (and eventually being killed for) his Jewish cultural identity. While appropriating Judaism as part of the Christian tradition is certainly different from respecting Judaism on its own terms, it’s important to note that their Christian faith inspires them not to denigrate others but to value and help them.
Corrie also emphasizes Nazi Germany’s lack of tolerance towards a variety of vulnerable groups, showing that the state is not targeting only Jews but diversity of any kind. In light of this, she argues, the best way to combat Nazi principles is to practice tolerance in daily life, no matter the circumstances. The ten Booms first become acquainted with Nazi intolerance some years before the war, when their German apprentice, Otto, behaves with almost sociopathic violence towards Christoffels, an elderly employee at the watch shop. Corrie and Father are perplexed at his behavior, but Willem explains that the Nazis encourage people to disrespect the sick and weak.
Prior to the war, Corrie conducts a church program for mentally disabled children, and during her imprisonment at Scheveningen, she tells her interrogator, Lieutenant Rahms, about her work. He feels that her work is useless, saying that “surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world.” Corrie sees this man as the epitome of “true National-Socialist philosophy”; his beliefs show that the Nazis devalue and persecute all vulnerable people, and thus pose a danger to society as a whole, not just minority groups like Jews.
During her internment at Ravensbruck, Corrie is struck by the beauty of the clandestine prayer services Betsie holds, in which women from many denominations share their own hymns and chants, and others translate Bible verses so that everyone can understand them. In bringing together women of different faiths and nationalities for a common, positive purpose, this moment represents the antithesis of Nazi principles. Although Corrie cannot continue her activist work in prison, she can still practice and appreciate tolerance in these harsh circumstances.
Corrie’s life-saving work during the war is a brave and obvious display of religious tolerance. However, she makes clear that her wartime heroism was inspired and enabled by a lifetime of smaller and seemingly more mundane acts, like having lunch with people of other faiths or helping the mentally disabled. Ultimately, she shows the reader that while most people will not face the circumstances she did, anyone can take the spirit of her beliefs into daily life.
Tolerance Quotes in The Hiding Place
Young and old, poor and rich, scholarly gentlemen and illiterate servant girls—only to Father did it seem that they were all alike. That was Father’s secret: not that he overlooked the differences in people; that he didn’t know they were there.
After the briefest possible discussion of business, Father would draw a small Bible form his traveling case; the wholesaler […] would snatch a book or scroll out of a drawer, clap a prayer cap onto his head; and the two of them would be off, arguing, comparing, interpreting, contradiction—reveling in each other’s company.
Willem shook his head. “It’s very deliberate,” he said. “It’s because Christoffels is old. The old have no value to the State. They’re also harder to train in new ways of thinking. Germany is systematically teaching disrespect for old age.”
Each night we lighted one more candle as Eusie read the story of the Maccabees. Then we would sing, haunting, melancholy, desert music. We were all very Jewish those evenings.
In the Bible I learned that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us. Who knows, in His eyes a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker. Or—a lieutenant.
And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb. I would think of Haarlem, each substantial church set behind its wrought-iron fence and its barrier of doctrine. And I would know again that in darkness God’s truth shines most clear.
When mention of the NSBers no longer brought a volley of self-righteous wrath, I knew the person’s healing was not far away. And the day he said, “These people you spoke of—I wonder if they’d care for some homegrown carrots,” then I knew the miracle had taken place.