When it came to participating in an underground organization, especially one fighting the highly efficient Nazi war machine, everything – including survival – was in the details.
As Corrie ten Boom writes in The Hiding Place, elaborate systems had to be created to save Jews destined for the Nazi death camps. There were systems of initial contact – how would threatened Jews know to go to the ten Boom’s watch shop, and how would the ten Booms know that the individual at the door seeking help was exactly who they said they were.
Systems of temporary placement had to be devised. This included what to do in the event of a raid by the police. The ten Booms actually practiced, and had their temporary charges practice, hiding at a moment’s notice, including in the middle of the night. Could you go to a designated hiding place when you were sound asleep – and get everything together and yourself hidden in under a minute? And turn the mattress over so the police wouldn’t be able to feel the warm sport where you’d been lying?
Then there were systems of moving people from the watch shop to a farm or rural area. Contacts had to be made, information exchanged, movement arranged – it took planning and people. In some cases, people couldn’t be moved and had to stay in the ten Boom household.
The ten Booms used codes of all kinds – for the telephone, for visitors, for possible threats. They had to remember specific information, as did their fellow members of the underground. They also participated in an elaborate information network, where information was passed quickly.
The risks they ran were enormous, and, as time went on, kept growing. Expansion of the operations always incurred a risk. Taking care of more people always involved risk. Too much activity in the shop was a risk (a security office lived on the same street).
The risks were calculated, but they were rarely counted. The ten Boom family helped anyone who came to their door. Corrie’s father believed the Jews were indeed God’s chosen people, and they were worthy of help and support, no matter what risk might be entailed.
The Dutch underground, like underground organizations in other Nazi-occupied countries, had to create its own, specialized kind of bureaucracy, with defined processes, means of communication, goals and objectives. And do it all under the brutal shadow of the Nazi regime.
It was a bureaucracy driven by passion, determination, and hope.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Hiding Place. To see more posts on this chapter, “Eusie,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.
Photograph by Lutz Schimpf via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.