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Corrie ten Boom’s memoir begins in the Dutch city of Haarlem in 1937, on the morning of a party celebrating the 100th “birthday” of the ten Boom family’s watchmaking business. As the memoir opens, readers meet the ten Boom family: Father and siblings Corrie, Nollie, Willem, and Betsie. Mrs. ten Boom and Corrie’s aunts are no longer alive. The family are devout Christians who help any and all who are in need. The ten Boom family and their friends sense Hitler’s foreboding rise in Germany, but no one comprehends the tragic events soon to unfold.
The first chapters of the memoir trace the author Corrie’s youth from age six to twenty-one with stories of her father’s wisdom; her love of Karel, who ends up marrying another woman; the deaths of two aunts; Willem’s and Nollie’s marriages; and the death of their beloved Mama. The ten Boom family gets a radio, which allows them to enjoy music and hear of the grim events unfolding around them. At this time, they discover that Nollie’s son Peter is a musical prodigy. Father hires a German whom he later fires for being an anti-Semite and for his disrespectful behavior.
The memoir then moves forward in time to 1942. The Dutch surrender to Germany in 1940 changes life dramatically. After Peter is arrested for playing the Dutch national anthem in church, the family begins hiding Jews and others who are in danger in their home, which is called the Beje. They build a secret room for added protection. The ten Boom family even finds an ally in a police officer named Rolf. Over time, the ten Boom family hides a Jewish cantor whom they rename Eusie, a mother and infant son, the elderly asthmatic named Mary, and many others. Some of these people move to locations outside the city, while others remain at the Beje as part of the ten Boom family.
With the help of family friend Pickwick, the family installs a buzzer alarm, which they sound when people need to hide. They practice hiding quickly in case the Beje is ever invaded by German soldiers in a razzia, or raid. When Corrie is called in by the police chief, he reveals that he’s sympathetic with her family’s charitable work and asks for help killing an informant. Corrie suggests that they pray for the informant’s enlightenment instead. Nazi operations cause tension to rise throughout the city and its residents. In time, soldiers raid the Beje. The ten Boom family is arrested and transported out of Haarlem with no idea where they are going.
At the camp, Corrie, Betsie, and Nollie are separated from Father, Willem, and Peter, and taken to Scheveningen penitentiary. At first, Corrie shares a cell with four other women. However, two weeks later Corrie falls ill and is placed in solitary confinement. Corrie learns that Betsie is in a cell nearby. Nollie, Peter, and Willem are soon released, but they hear no news of Father. One day, Corrie receives a package from Nollie containing a light blue sweater and, later, a letter with news of Father’s death. At Corrie’s first hearing, she befriends the kind Lieutenant Rahms, who admits that he, too, lives in a dark prison of shame. Thanks to Lieutenant Rahms, the ten Boom family is briefly united for the reading of Father’s will. At this gathering, Nollie passes a tiny Bible in a pouch to Corrie, something Corrie will wear around her neck until her release. The war grinds on.
When the prison is evacuated, Corrie and Betsie reunite. They are transferred to Vught, a camp for political prisoners. At the camp, Corrie works in the Phillips factory making radios, and she welcomes the company of others. A humane foreman allows the workers to sing and play games during their eleven-hour shifts. As the Germans begin to lose the war, the prisoners are marched out of camp and packed onto freight cars to be shipped to Ravensbruck extermination camp in a hellish four-day ordeal.
Corrie recounts her time in Ravensbruck. There, the prisoners live in a lice-infected tent, and Betsie falls ill. Corrie and Betsie manage to hide the blue sweater, the Bible, and some vitamins, but they are stripped of everything except thin prison dresses. At this time, Corrie and Betsie experience unspeakable cruelty and mistreatment yet continue to feel strengthened in their faith in God.
As winter comes, 1,400 women move to wooden platforms in a barracks that were built to house only 400. Betsie’s cough worsens, and she is taken to the hospital. Corrie feels alone. When Betsie returns, she and Corrie are assigned to the knitting room, which becomes a center of prayer and Bible reading. Betsie begins to have visions of a postwar life of service. She describes a house and a camp that serve war-damaged people. Betsie imagines window boxes and bright green paint. However, Betsie dies before they are liberated. When a kind guard allows Corrie to view Betsie’s body, she is comforted by the peaceful, beautiful expression on Betsie’s face. However, she must leave behind the blue sweater Bestie was wearing as it is contaminated and must be burned.
Corrie suffers from edema and is released from the prison. On New Year’s Day 1945, she views a bombed-out Germany from a train window as she travels back to Holland. At a hospital in Holland, a kind Dutch nurse gives Corrie food and a hot bath. After ten days in the hospital, Corrie is well enough to visit Willem’s house. When Corrie finally returns to the Beje in Haarlem, Nollie welcomes her with a warm hug. Corrie tries to adjust and return to her old life. She soon decides to follow Betsie’s advice and give talks to teach others what she and her family have learned during their ordeal and to point people to Jesus’s love. At one of Corrie’s talks, a wealthy woman offers her home so Betsie’s vision of creating a camp for war-damaged people can become a reality. Corrie speaks all over the world, and eventually, she’s invited to take over a former concentration camp to use as a relief site. There, she installs window boxes and paints the building green, just as Betsie envisioned.
The memoir concludes with a short afterword that describes the remainder of Corrie ten Boom’s rich life, her work with refugees and former prisoners, Willem’s death, Peter’s musical genius, and Corrie’s camp that functioned until 1960 as a place of renewal, compassion, and Christian devotion. Corrie eventually learns that her release from prison was due to a clerical error. Later in life, Corrie suffered from strokes. However, she remained cheerful in spirit until her death in 1983.