Thursday, September 15, 2011

Haarlem & Corrie ten Boom House

We took Traci to the old city of Haarlem on the Dutch west coast.  It is over 900 years old and is the capital of North Holland province.  It is best known as the Dutch bulb export center, primarily tulips, but it also has a rich history spanning many centuries.

The center of the city has, you guessed it - a big open square (called the Grote Markt or Great Market Square) which is one of the finest in Holland.   The statue in the center is of Laurens Jansz Coster who the Dutch claim invented printing before Gutenburg.
Prominent on the square is the St. Bavo Cathedral.   It was built in 1738 and houses the Muller organ, one of Europe's most famous.  It was played by Mozart when he was a the ten-year-old sensation of Europe, and twice by Handel.

Next to the church is the Vleeshal, a former meat market or Butcher's Hall.  It dates from 1602.

On the other end of the square is the Town Hall.  The oldest part of the building is what remains of Count William II's hunting lodge from the mid-1200's.

We went inside St. Bavo's Church to see the famous organ, but all that was visible were the pipes.  They were very ornate, but not as large or numerous as the ones in Salt Lake City at the Tabernacle and Conference Center.  There are free organ recitals given in the church on Tuesday nights. 

The interior of the church was lovely.  This was the pulpit area.

Several stained-glass windows decorated the exterior walls.

We exited the church and headed for Barteljorisstraat 19, just north of the Grote Markt.  This is the location of the Corrie ten Boom House Museum.

Our guide kindly did the commentary in English so that we could understand the remarkable story of the ten Booms, a watch-making family who showed great courage by hiding Jewish people and members of the Dutch resistance from the Nazis during World War II.

The center photo is Willem ten Boom, who was the patriarch of the family.  He believed all human beings were valued children of God and treated Jews with the same respect he showed to his fellow countrymen.

A false wall was built in the top floor of the house in Corrie's bedroom (directly behind our guide in the blue jacket).  Corrie would often sit on her bed and pretend nothing was amiss as the Gestapo searched her room for hiding places.

This close-up view of the hiding place shows a section where the fake wall has been removed.  The bricks prevented the wall from having a hollow sound when tapped by the Gestapo.  Seven to nine people could stand behind the wall during a raid.  They entered the space through a cupboard with a false back.

This picture shows the cupboard with the back panel raised so that the fugitives could get behind the wall into the hiding place.

Sister Hill demonstrates the size of the opening.  When all the Jews were behind the wall, the fake panel was lowered and the back of the cupboard looked like the two upper shelves.  Bedding was quickly placed on the shelf to make the cupboard look like a normal storage cabinet for the bedroom.

It was very interesting to read stories about the lives that were saved by this remarkable family.

Though the rooms were small, the family never turned people away who needed help.  The ten Boom house was intended to be a temporary hiding place for people until they could be smuggled to safer locations.  In actuality, it became the permanent home for seven Jews whose faces and health concerns made it impossible to move them to safer locations.
Eventually the family was arrested and the father Willem and his daughter Betsie died in German prison camps.  Only Cornelia survived Ravensbruck.  A clerical error allowed her release just days before the other women her age in the camp were sent to the gas chambers.

We left Haarlem feeling enriched by our time spent at the Hiding Place.  Traci and I both took a copy of the book to read more in depth about the ten Boom's remarkable story.  It was an inspirational testimony to the goodness of these courageous Dutch people.  The Adriaan Windmill  was on our route as we left the centrum.

Goodbye, Haarlem.  This has been one of our favorite places we have visited since arriving in The Netherlands.

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