Summary: 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.

Analysis: Chapter 6: The Secret Room

As Corrie takes a leadership role protecting Jews in Haarlem from arrest by the Germans, her life becomes one of secrecy and continual danger. Although she thinks of herself as “not clever or subtle or sophisticated,” she uses her practical experience running the shop and her family’s wide network of friends and acquaintances to develop underground sources of help. After decades of rigid honesty, she has made peace with the necessity of lying and stealing in order to save lives. Corrie has changed in another way too: she keeps secrets from Father and Betsie in order to protect them. Where Father had protected 6-year-old Corrie from adult knowledge, middle-aged Corrie has become his protector. The ten Boom family cling to their values even when neighbors’ comments alert them that many people in the city know about their underground activities. Their personal safety is less important to them than doing what they believe to be right.

The building of the secret room in the Beje symbolizes the new presence of deception and secrecy in the lives of Corrie, Betsie, and Father. It contrasts sharply with the open house the family held in Chapter 1. Where once they were able to sincerely welcome the entire city into their home, they now put up literal and figurative walls to keep enemies out. Yet the Bible verse Corrie remembers from her childhood, of Jesus being a hiding place, reassures the reader that the ten Booms are continuing to act in line with their faith. The scene from Corrie’s childhood has prepared the reader to accept the hiding place as a reflection of Jesus.