Chapter 1: The One Hundredth Birthday Party
Corrie, the author and narrator of The Hiding Place, rises on the day of a party to celebrate the 100th “birthday” of her father’s watch shop in the Dutch city of Haarlem in 1937. As Corrie describes the party preparations, she also describes their home, the Beje, which is a multi-level building that contains both the shop and the family’s rooms. All morning, bouquets of flowers are delivered to the house from people who love Corrie’s father, and she and her sister Betsie arrange them for the party. Hans, the apprentice, and Toos, the bookkeeper, arrive.
Soon, Father appears at the dining room table, complimenting his daughters’ colorful dresses and reminiscing about his childhood in the house. Only Corrie and Betsie still live at home. Their siblings Nollie and Willem have homes and families of their own, and their mother, Mama, and several of their aunts, including Tante Jans, have died. Father reads from the Bible and asks about Christoffels, another employee, who soon arrives. Corrie bikes to Nollie’s house to borrow cups as dozens of guests show up. Soon, Nollie’s family, Pickwick—a wealthy customer and friend—and the Kan family, owners of the town’s other watch shop, arrive. When Willem arrives with Herr Gutlieber, a Jewish man who escaped Germany in a milk truck, discussion turns to Germany and its current frightening events.
Chapter 2: Full Table
Corrie recalls her childhood. She remembers getting ready for her first day of school at age six. At this time, Mama’s sisters—Jans, Bep, and Anna—lived with Corrie and her family. Tante Jans, a widowed writer of Christian tracts, occupies two rooms above the shop. Tante Jans buys the girls clothes, including unfashionable, practical hats. At breakfast, Father reads a Psalm, “Thou art my hiding place,” which makes Corrie wonder why someone would need to hide. In the summers, Corrie travels with Father on his weekly trips to Amsterdam, where he gets the correct time for his watchmaking and interacts with many Jews.
On the way home, Corrie asks Father the meaning of sexsin, a word she noted from a poem, which loosely translated means “sexual experience.” Father responds by comparing knowledge to a heavy suitcase she is not yet able to carry. Corrie then describes evenings at the Beje, full of guests and music. She also recalls accompanying her mother to visit a family whose baby has died. When Corrie touches the baby’s cold hand, death becomes real to her. She expresses her fear to Father, who says that just as he gives her a ticket right before they board the train, God will give her strength when the time comes for her to face a family death.
Chapter 3: Karel
Corrie continues to reflect on her childhood. At age fourteen, Corrie meets Karel, one of Willem’s university friends, and falls in love. Tante Bep contracts tuberculosis, and Mama is sick with gallstones and strokes. When Corrie asks how they might make Tante Bep happier, Mama tells Corrie that happiness is something we make inside ourselves. After Tante Bep dies, Tante Jans learns she has diabetes. To save on medical costs, Corrie begins testing Tante Jans’ blood each week while Tante Jans continues to work at creating a soldiers’ center. Willem becomes an ordained minister and marries Tine.
At age twenty-one, Corrie sees Karel at Willem’s wedding. Tante Jans learns that she has only weeks to live, to which she replies with the strength and faith that Father referenced in his train ticket analogy. Four months after Tante Jans’ funeral, the family attends Willem’s first sermon. Karel also attends, and he and Corrie go on daily walks. Willem warns Corrie that Karel will never marry her because his mother expects him to marry someone wealthy. When Karel visits next, he brings his wealthy fiancée, breaking Corrie’s heart. Father consoles her with the advice that God will give her the perfect way to love when the time is right.
Chapter 4: The Watch Shop
In 1918, Mama suffers a cerebral hemorrhage and goes into a coma. Two months later, she regains consciousness and some mobility. Although Mama can barely speak, she still has a great capacity for love. When Nollie marries Flip van Woerden, Mama is radiant and even sings her favorite hymn but dies peacefully four weeks later. Betsie becomes ill, so Corrie takes over the shop’s sales and bookkeeping for her. Soon, Corrie and Betsie realize they are happier swapping roles. Betsie loves keeping house, and Corrie feels eager to learn Father’s trade.
Three years later, Corrie becomes the first licensed female watchmaker in Holland. During this time, the ten Boom family takes in foster children. When Father falls ill with hepatitis, the community buys him a radio, which fills the house with news and music. Nollie’s son, Peter, reveals his musical gift when he points out a bad piano note in a concert. At home, the family listens to the news daily. They hear Hitler’s voice screaming through the radio, but the ten Boom family and most other Dutch people believe Hitler will be squelched. Father hires Otto from Germany as an apprentice, but when he learns of Otto’s anti-Semitism, the knife he keeps in his room, and his lack of respect for the elderly Christoffels, Father fires him.
Chapter 5: Invasion
The ten Boom family gathers to listen to the Prime Minister’s address about the impending war. The speech seems reassuring, but Father, now 80 years old, turns the radio off and announces that Holland will be invaded and defeated. That evening, Corrie wakes to bombing. She has a vision of her family and friends being taken away in a horse-drawn wagon. Five days later, Holland’s queen leaves, tanks advance across the border, and the family learns that Holland has surrendered. German soldiers fill Haarlem, and many buy watches.
The ten Boom family experiences curfews, identification cards, and rations. They turn in their small radio but hide the larger one. The Germans use the airport to raid England. After soldiers invade the furrier shop of Mr. Weil, a Jewish neighbor, Corrie asks Willem to help arrange for Mr. Weil’s protection. When one of Willem’s sons, Kik, helps Mr. Weil escape, Corrie learns about the underground, an illegal group that uses sabotage to help protect the Jews. Corrie wonders how a Christian like herself should respond to evil. The family befriends Mr. de Vries, a Jewish neighbor, who moves a rabbi’s books to their home for safekeeping. While Corrie helps a Jewish doctor and his family, she experiences the horrific vision of her family unwillingly leaving Holland again.
Chapter 6: The Secret Room
By 1942, the Dutch national anthem is prohibited, but Peter plays the music in church anyway. Three days later, he is taken by the Gestapo. Two weeks later, the Jewish Mrs. Kleermaker arrives at the ten Boom house and asks for asylum. The family welcomes her and offers tea and a bed. Two night later, an elderly Jewish couple appears, and they are welcomed in, too. When Corrie asks Willem to help her get ration cards for the fugitives, Willem admits that he is being watched and cannot help at this time. Corrie bikes to meet with Fred Koornstra, who works for the Food Office, and together they devise a plan to get more ration cards. Fred will deliver them to the Beje, which is becoming a meeting place for need and supply. Kik takes Corrie to Pickwick’s house, where she meets the national underground. A “Mr. Smit” offers to visit the Beje to design a secret room. The family learns that Peter will be released. Later, Mr. Smit assesses the Beje and its potential for hiding places and deems the house perfect with all its levels and small spaces. Workers come with tools and materials and build a false brick wall that completely conceals a secret room, a room they hope the Gestapo will never find.
Chapter 7: Eusie
Corrie, now 51, describes the razzia, a series of sudden raids by the Gestapo to search for and seize young men. When soldiers invade the Beje, Peter and Kik hide under the floorboards. Christoffels is found dead, frozen with fear in his bed. Mr. and Mrs. de Vries hide at a neighbor’s, but that home is soon raided too. When Mr. de Vries is arrested, a kind police officer named Rolf arranges for Mrs. de Vries, who is Christian, to see her husband before he is transported. Corrie asks Rolf how they might repay his kindness, and he asks her to help him hide a young man.
The Beje now operates as headquarters for an extensive underground operation. The household develops a code language using watch repair terms to discuss secrets over the phone. Many Jews arrive, including a mother and her newborn. A cantor from Amsterdam named Meyer Mossel arrives and becomes part of the family. To protect him, they rename him Eusie Smit. Pickwick has a buzzer alarm installed, and the household begins to hold hiding drills. Later, Mary, an elderly asthmatic woman, arrives, and the household takes her in. Everyone spends pleasant evenings doing theatrical readings and listening to music, lit by Corrie’s bike headlight.
Chapter 8: Storm Clouds Gather
Corrie witnesses Nollie and one of the girls they are hiding being taken away because Nollie tells the truth when asked if the girl is Jewish. The Jewish girl is freed during an unexpected break-in, but Nollie remains in prison. Corrie implores a doctor to free Nollie, but he tells Corrie she must wait. Corrie does not perform well during the practice drills at night because she has trouble lying. Willem holds weekly prayer meetings at the Beje. One night, Otto—the anti-Semite apprentice Father previously fired—appears at the door, and Corrie hits the buzzer. All nonfamily members hide well, and Otto leaves without incident.
Later, Nollie is released from prison. As the household celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, neighbors complain that the Jewish singing is loud. When Corrie is summoned by the police chief, she assumes the worst, but he is sympathetic with her family’s efforts. He seeks Corrie to help him kill an inside informant, but Corrie convinces him to pray for the informant’s enlightenment instead. Rolf informs the household of an impending raid nearby, and Jop, a Beje resident, goes to warn the victims. However, the Gestapo are waiting when Jop arrives, and he’s arrested.
Chapter 9: The Raid
The narrative moves forward to February 1944. One night, the Gestapo invade the Beje. All nonfamily members hide, but the soldiers beat and interrogate Corrie and Betsie as they search for the hidden room and the Jews. Pickwick had already been arrested. The next morning, the ten Boom family, including Peter, is taken to the police station along with thirty-five others who were arrested the night before. The prisoners are put into a gymnasium and given water and rolls. Father recites the evening prayers as usual. Rolf, still secretly supportive, enters and whispers to them that they might flush any incriminating paper evidence down the toilets. The next morning, as the prisoners are herded onto a bus, the ten Boom family sees Pickwick, beaten and bloody. As the bus leaves Haarlem, Corrie recalls her earlier vision of the family being taken away and unable to return home. She doesn’t know where they are going.
Chapter 10: Scheveningen
At The Hague, a building used as Gestapo headquarters in Holland, the ten Boom family faces endless questioning. Father is offered pardon if he promises to discontinue helping Jews. However, he proudly states he will continue to help anyone who is in need and who is denied freedom. Corrie then confesses to being the ringleader to protect her family. A bus takes them to Scheveningen penitentiary, where women are separated from men and all must surrender their possessions. Corrie, Betsie, and Nollie are put in separate cells. Corrie’s cellmates offer Corrie her own cot as she is sick with the flu. Two weeks later, a doctor diagnoses Corrie with pre-tuberculosis. A kind nurse gives Corrie soap, safety pins, and four Gospels from the Bible. Two evenings later, still feverish, Corrie is transferred to solitary confinement. On April 15, she celebrates her birthday.
One evening, the guards attend a party, which allows the prisoners to call out messages among the cells. Corrie learns that Betsie is nearby and Nollie was released, along with Peter and Willem, but there is no news of Father. Corrie later receives a package from Nollie containing cookies, a needle, a blue sweater, and a red towel so she can embroider with threads from the towel. Later, Corrie receives a letter from Nollie with news that Father died ten days after his arrest.
Chapter 11: The Lieutenant
Corrie attends her first hearing. Lieutenant Rahms treats her kindly and offers her a chair and warming fire but then says that she must confess everything. When Corrie defends her treatment of the disabled, he dismisses her. The next day, Rahms returns, and he and Corrie sit outdoors. He asks about her prior reference to the teachings of the Bible. When Corrie explains that there is a Light that permeates all darkness, Lieutenant Rahms admits that he lives imprisoned in darkness. They meet four times. In these meetings, Lieutenant Rahms listens to Corrie talk about her childhood and her family. He feels distressed that her father died in prison and admits that he lacks authority to help in any way.
As Corrie walks back to her cell, she sees inside Betsie’s cell, noting that Betsie set it up to feel more like a home. Lieutenant Rahms takes Corrie to a room for the reading of Father’s will. There, she feels overjoyed to find Willem and his wife, Tine; Nollie and her husband, Flip; and Betsie. Nollie passes Corrie a tiny Bible in a pouch. A notary reads Father’s will, and the family acknowledges Lieutenant Rahms’s kindness.
Chapter 12: Vught
The prison is evacuated, and Corrie realizes Jesus is her true hiding place. The prisoners board seatless buses, and Corrie reunites with Betsie. The prisoners disembark in a wooded area, march a mile, and reach Vught, a camp built for political prisoners. Corrie, Betsie, and some others are then transferred to another camp, where they witness cruel torture in the bunkers. Corrie feels sickened by such treatment, but Betsie sees the opportunity to spread love. Betsie is assigned to sewing uniforms, while Corrie works in the Phillips factory making radios. When Corrie tells a benevolent foreman named Moorman that she’s a watchmaker, he assigns her to better work. Corrie and Betsie work eleven-hour days and reunite each evening. In the Philips factory, Moorman gives the workers breaks during which they sing and play games. The prisoners hear rumors that a Dutch brigade is coming from England to reclaim Holland, but when they hear explosions, they learn that it is German demolition, not emancipation.
Soon, the prisoners are marched out of Vught and herded onto a train, packed eighty to a car. They gouge holes in the car walls to let in air, and they develop a system of lying down intertwined. The train heads to Germany, stopping and starting as it passes through hailstorms and machine gun fire.
Chapter 13: Ravensbruck
Corrie and Betsie spend four days on the train amid extreme stench and thirst. Once off the train, they move to Ravensbruck extermination camp. There, they go to a huge tent, full of lice. Later, SS guards chase them into the woods, where they sleep on the ground. After three days, Betsie becomes sick. Before they are searched, Corrie and Betsie hide the blue sweater, Bible, and vitamins behind a bench. Later, Corrie hides these items under her prison dress. Together, Corrie and Betsie share the horror of the camps and the light of Jesus. During Friday inspections, Corrie remembers Jesus dying naked on the cross.
In October, 1,400 women move to tiers of flea-infested wooden platforms that were built to house only 400. Each day, Corrie and Betsie work eleven-hour shifts for Siemens outside the camp. Each night, they hold religious services in their barracks. Corrie and Betsie share their vitamins with other prisoners. In November, the prisoners receive coats, but Betsie weakens. When a guard mocks and hits Betsie, Corrie rushes at him. Betsie stops her and reminds her to only see Jesus in her heart. Later, Betsie’s cough turns bloody, and Corrie brings her to the hospital. When Corrie returns to the barracks without Betsie, she wonders how, packed in tightly with so many women, she can feel so alone.
Chapter 14: The Blue Sweater
Betsie soon recovers and returns to the barracks, where she is assigned to knitting socks. The guards don’t enter the knitting room because of the fleas, which allows Betsie to share Bible readings and prayers with others. Corrie is slated to work in a factory, but she doesn’t want to leave Betsie. A sympathetic guard arranges for Corrie to work with Betsie in the knitting room, which now serves as a prayer center. Betsie dreams of owning a big house to continue their life of service. Winter proves deadly. The sickest women are taken to the crematorium. At roll call, the women stomp their feet to keep warm. Corrie muses about her own selfishness, and how easy it is to downplay one’s own self-centeredness when surrounded by greater evil.
Betsie falls ill again but continues to describe her vision of a camp in detail, with window boxes and bright green paint. Betsie goes to the hospital again and soon dies. A kind guard allows Corrie to see Betsie’s body, and she notes that Betsie’s face appears peaceful and beautiful. In the hospital hallway, Corrie reaches for Betsie’s light blue sweater lying on the floor, the sweater Nollie sent so long ago. However, the kind guard warns her to not touch the sweater as it is contaminated and must be burned. Corrie leaves the sweater behind.
Chapter 15: The Three Visions
Corrie’s legs swell. She is sent to an office where she sees a Certificate of Discharge with her name on it. A doctor diagnoses her with edema, and she goes to the hospital until she recovers. When well enough to leave, Corrie receives clothes, her possessions, and some food. On New Year’s Day 1945, she takes a train to Uelzen. Through the window, she views a bombed-out Germany. Once in Holland, Corrie spends ten days in a hospital until she’s well enough to travel to Willem’s house. Willem is dying, but his home houses more than fifty residents.
Corrie then returns to the Beje, where she readjusts to life at home. In her mind, she keeps hearing Betsie’s words—We must tell people what we learned—and she begins to give talks. At one of her talks, a wealthy Ms. Bierens de Haan agrees to donate her lavish home to make Betsie’s vision a reality. In May, the Allies retake Holland, and the house fills with people damaged by the war. Corrie travels across the world, sharing Betsie’s story with all who will listen. When she meets a former SS guard, a reluctant handshake creates a current of love and forgiveness. Later, Corrie transforms a former concentration camp into a relief site. She installs window boxes and paints it bright green.
Chapter 16: Since Then . . .
This chapter is a short synopsis of the rest of Corrie’s postwar life. It describes the former concentration camp in Darmstadt that operated from 1946 to 1960 as a place of renewal, Willem’s death from tuberculosis in 1946, Willem’s son Kik’s death in 1944, and Peter’s compositions of devotional music. In 1959, Corrie learns that her release from Ravensbruck was the result of a clerical error. She travels the whole world telling Betsie’s story and sharing how “Jesus can turn loss into glory.” After several debilitating strokes, Corrie died on her 91st birthday in 1983, still cheerful and uplifting to people who visited her in her final days.