I am writing this from the Arusha Coffee Club in Arusha, Tanzania, Africa near the base of Mount Kilamanjaro. We will soon be heading back to the United States after spending several days on the African continent. Prior to coming to Tanzania, we spent a couple of days in Amsterdam. One of the things we did while in that historic city is visit the houses of two people who lived in or near Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of World War II.
Near Amsterdam, in a little community called Haarlem, sits the cottage that housed Corrie Ten Boom's family. I've been amazed by Corrie Ten Boom's story for years, and it was an honor to tour the house where she and her family hid Jews from the Nazis who sought to exterminate the Jewish race. The Ten Boom family was Dutch, and the risk they took in turning their house into a "hiding place' was incalculable. Corrie and her family were caught sympathizing with the Jews, and at the age of 52, Corrie was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Somehow, she miraculously survived from being sent to the gas chambers, but the rest of her family perished in the camps. Corrie Ten Boom would come to America later in life, and one of our friends and fellow church members, Audrey Villialobos worked as her personal secretary.
The lines in front of Corrie Ten Boom's house were non-existent. The tour was gripping. It is a humbling experience to realize you are the age of a woman who risked her own life to save the lives of others during World War II. Other than the Churchill Museum in London, I consider the tour of Corrie Ten Boom's house to be one of the more emotionally moving places I've been to across the Atlantic.
Just a few hours after visiting Corrie Ten Boom's house we were in Amsterdam touring another house. Anne Frank was a Jewish girl in Amsterdam during World War II, and along with other members of her family, she hid in the back of a warehouse from the Nazi's. She was only twelve, but she recorded her thoughts in 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' Anne and her family eventually would be caught by the Nazis and she would die in the concentration camps. Her diary, discovered by her surviving father after the war, would be published in 1947 and become an international sensation.
The line outside Anne Frank's house was literally a mile long. Literally. Thanks to the ingenuity of Carol Williams who had purchased entry passes for us prior to arriving in Amsterdam, we were able to skirt the lines. The Anne Frank house told a fascinating story of personal hiding from the Nazis. It was much more 'professional' in terms of a museum when compared to Corrie Ten Boom's house. Steven Spielberg took profits from his movie "Schindler's List" and made the Anne Frank house the beneficiary.
But the difference between Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom goes far beyond their respective houses. Corrie Ten Boom was hiding others. Anne Frank was hiding herself. Corrie Ten Boom willingly put her life in danger for others; Anne Frank's life was in danger unwillingly. Corrie Ten Boom is the epitome of selfless sacrifice; Anne Frank epitomizes the ability to write well of one's difficulties in life.
It is not surprising the world flocks to the house of Anne Frank. I find it very surprising that the world doesn't come in similar numbers to the house of Corrie Ten Boom. It seems we put a higher value on self-preservation than we do self-sacrifice. After being at both houses in Amsterdam, I came away from one house sympathizing with the difficulties of a young Jewish girl and from the other house I came away with a renewed desire to live my life for the sake of others.
Were the world to be enthralled by the story of Corrie Ten Boom we'd all be living in a better place. May the lines outside the Ten Boom house increase.