Corrie Ten Boom died April 15, 1983 on the same day she was born 91 years earlier. According to Jewish tradition, a person is considered especially blessed by God when this event occurs.
Certainly the nation of Israel considered Corrie blessed when in 1967, it named her “Righteous among the nations” — a special award handed out to individuals who helped Jews escape the holocaust in World War II.
Corrie was a Christian and during the war she and her family — who lived in Holland — were involved with the Dutch Resistance fighting the Nazis on their soil.
The Ten Boom’s primary activity during those dark years was providing a “hiding place” for Jews trying to escape the Nazi SS.
On February 28, 1944 — acting on information provided by a Dutch informant — the Nazis arrested the Ten Boom family. They were split up with Corrie and her sister Betsy ending up in the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany set up by the SS to handle women and children.
While there, Corrie watched her sister wither away and eventually die in this horrific environment. Corrie was released in December 1944 due to a clerical error.
After the war, Corrie, ministered throughout Europe and particularly Germany.
In 1947, she was speaking at a church in Munich, Germany on the message the Lord had given her for that hour – God forgives. During the meeting she noticed a heavy-set man in the congregation. He was watching intently with his felt hat tightly clutched in his hands.
Because of Holland’s tie to the sea, Corrie used an ocean analogy to explain God’s forgiveness. “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever,” she said.
After she was finished, people trudged out, no smiles, no questions which was typical of meetings in Germany after the war.
It was then she noticed that man making his way towards her. She said his grey overcoat suddenly transformed into “a blue uniform and visor cap with a skull and crossbones.”
Standing inches away from here was a guard from Ravensbruck.
He stuck out his hand. But when Corrie feeling the flood of emotions and memories from her first encounter with a former tormenter did not respond, he dropped his hand.
The man spoke. He thanked her for her message on God’s forgiveness. He told Corrie he had been a guard at Ravensbruck, but he had accepted Christ and knew God had forgiven him for all he had done there. Then he looked her square in the eye and said “will you forgive me.”
Corrie said the seconds seemed like hours as she struggled with her response. She knew Jesus’ teaching that if she did not forgive, God would not forgive her sins.
She also knew from her work among those imprisoned in concentration camps, the ones who forgave were able to rebuild their lives and move on. Those who didn’t remained trapped in concentration camps, even though they were free.
Corrie understood forgiveness was not an emotion, but an act of the will. Even so, it was still extremely difficult. She prayed, “Jesus, help me,” and then slowly offered her hand to the man. When their hands clasped, she said “The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart.'”
It was the most intense feeling of God’s love that she had ever experienced — all because she forgave.
“Learning to Forive”, by Corrie Ten Boom (Guideposts Magazine: 1972