I believe that history is important.
George Santayana, a Spanish-born American author, said, “Those who cannot remember the past condemned to repeat it.”
I fully believe that this is true, and yet, at the same time, I struggle to read the history books that were handed to me in school. Dates, times, statistics, and names always pass straight through my head, and I never remember them.
What I do remember are stories.
If you hand me a well-written biography (or better yet, an autobiography) I will almost certainly remember in great detail exactly what happened to them, what they did, when they lived, what they cared about, and what they believed. Books like the Diary of a Young Girl or The River of Doubt teach me much more about WWII or Theodore Roosevelt than I will ever pick up from any history book or lecture. The story sticks with me, and I remember the facts of the story because of how powerful it was.
One such book that has deeply impacted me is The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.
Corrie was a Dutch woman living during the horrors of WWII. Her story, written in her own words, tells of her life before the invasion of Holland by the Germans, and her struggle through the war to hide and protect the Jewish people in and around her community. Her resistance against the regime that caused so much terror throughout the known world begins with very small things. Simple kindness, a ration card, a message delivered. Before too long, she, her sister, and her aging father are asked to shelter a Jewish man in their home, an offense that could get them shot.
They don’t hesitate, and Eusie is added to their household.
More and more Jews join them, until there are seven who live every day in the Beje, their tiny little home. Others come and go, on their way to safe houses, but those seven have become a part of their family. Seven people that no one else can ever know about. A secret room, built into the twisting, cramped little house, gives them a place to hide in case the Gestapo ever come.
And they do come.
The secret room saves the seven Jews, but Corrie, her sister, and her father are all arrested. A succession of prisons and concentration camps follows, leading them into the darkest corners of Germany. Corrie’s account of the horror of the concentration camps is softened by her faith in God and her love for her sister. Even in the midst of the tragedy around them, they are able to cling to the promise that no pit is so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.
This book is one that has influenced me over and over again through the years. The story of faith, perseverance, and forgiveness locked within its pages is truly life-changing.
“Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love!”