A Continuance of – A Father’s Legacy
Nollie (ten Boom) van Woerden: Second daughter born to Casper and Cornelia ten Boom, is the featured family member in this segment of A Father’s Legacy. Before we learn about her, I thought it appropriate to refresh our understanding of the hostile conditions that were taking place in occupied Holland. Conditions that showcased the good… and…the bad in mankind.
“If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who knocks for help.” Casper ten Boom
On May 10, 1940 the Netherlands were invaded by German forces. Five days later Holland fell to “Herr Wolf,” the Chancellor of Germany. The Dutch armies unconditionally surrendered and their government and royal family went into exile as they fled to London. As Germany took over Holland, a minority of the Dutch supported the occupying forces while an active resistance slowly began to grow.
Two years later in May 1942, the Nazi leaders ordered the Dutch Jews to wear the Star of David. This identifiable symbol was a calculated maneuver on the German’s part in order to easily locate the Jewish people in the crowds. Holland’s excellent civil records made the process of identification easy and with the assistance of the Dutch police and civil service the Germans deported the majority of the country’s Jews to concentration camps.
Most of Holland’s public, and for that matter, Dutch Jews, could not believe that the Jewish people would be subjected to genocide and sent to death camps. And as this horror came to light the Jewish population found need to hide in “safe houses” to escape persecution.
Hiding was difficult especially in the urban areas…harboring Jews was punishable by death but in spite of the risks, many Hollanders helped the Jewish people. However, not all Dutch offered active or passive resistance against the German occupation. Some men and women were forced or chose to collaborate with the German regime.
20,000 to 25,000 Dutchmen volunteered to join the German land forces known as the Waffen-SS (a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich). And for a price others became actively involved in capturing the hiding Jews and deliver them to the German occupiers.
75% of Holland’s Jewish population were exterminated, a much higher percentage than countries like Belgium and France. One-third of the people who hid Jews did not survive the war.
“I pity the poor Germans, Corrie, they have touched the apple of God’s eye.” Casper ten Boom
A little about the ten Boom sisters:
Betsie, Nollie, and Corrie were devoted sisters in the ten Boom household. Betsie, the oldest of the three, was like a second mother to her two little sisters. Nollie was known for her extreme honesty and matter of fact demeanor. Corrie, the youngest and somewhat unpolished, found both sisters priceless.
Nollie ten Boom
1940 brought more than war to Hollands doorsteps, it brought a sinister darkness and for Nollie, the sister known for her honesty, found herself facing a conflict that would test her spiritual and moral integrity. It was the hardest dilemma that she had ever faced.
Nollie married Frederick (Flip) van Woerden in 1919 and together the couple had six children, three boys, and three girls. Peter, who we have already covered in an early post titled Cords of Faith, was their second oldest son.
As the Nazi regime began to tighten their grip on Holland, Dutch families found themselves facing moral decisions to either provide their Jewish countrymen refuge, turn them away, or turn them in. For Nollie it was not a hard discion to lend aid, but when she was faced to tell the truth or lie, she found herself in grave conflict.
Nollie’s disposition to always be truthful was based on her strong christian convictions to obey God no matter what. After much wrestling, Nollie decided that if faced with the question of truth, that she would not, and could not, disobey God and lie. She felt that if placed in that position that God would honor her obedience and therefore would provide a way of escape.
Like her father, Nollie and Flip also offered their home as a safe house for Jews, resistance workers, and young men in Haarlem looking to avoid the razzia — the raiding of dutch civilian young men to be forced into German labor camps. To harbor such as these was punishable by imprisonment and death but because it was a German mandate, Nollie had no problem violating it for God’s law was higher.
Nollie’s pertinacity to honesty was her way of life long before bombs, guns and soldiers became commonplace in Holland. And as she raised her children in her christian beliefs she was diligent in training them in the virtue of truth. One night when a razzia raid entered their home, her daughter, Cocky, trained in such virtue, brought danger very close to their hearts.
Razzia Raid on the van Woerden home
Moments before the Nazi’s entered the home, two of Nollie son’s, Peter and Bob, had rushed the room stating that the Nazi’s were on a raid for their German labor camps. Betsie, Casper, and Corrie, who were visiting, rushed to get the young men into the hiding place which was located under the floor boards in the kitchen just underneath the table (Nollie was not home at the time). Narrowly, as the young men were secured and table back in place, the Nazi burst into the room.
“Where are your men!?” Cocky was asked, “These are my aunts and my grandfather,” she replied. “I didn’t ask about your tribe,” the German gruffly responded, “where are your brothers!?” Cocky dropped her eyes and remained silent.
“Do you have brothers?!” “Yes,” she answered,”How many!?” “Three.” “How old are they?!” “Twenty-one, nineteen, and eighteen.” “Where are they now?” Cocky dropped her eyes again and began to pick up the dishes.The German soldier roughly jerked her arm and repeated, “where are they!” Cocky answered, “Why, they are under the table.”
The soldiers pointed their guns at those sitting around the table and motioned them to move. They then pulled off the table cloth and looked under the table, which sent Cocky’s pent up tension into hysterical laughter. The soldier thought that she was making fun of them and fumed, “don’t take us for fools!” and stormed out of the house.
When Nollie arrived home the account was quickly related to her in which she praised her daughter for obeying God by telling the truth. Dismayed by her response the family pushed back, but Nollie simply replied, “God honored Cocky’s obedience in truth and provided a way of escape, did he not?” Exasperated sighs resounded around the room.
In 1943, three years into their resistance work, Nollie’s house was once again invaded. One of the Jewish women living at Nollie’s was named Annaliese, blonde and blue eyed with no reflection of her Jewish ancestry in her face . She had perfect papers and moved about Holland without detection.
On the day when the soldiers stormed into Nollie’s living room, where she and Annaliese were sitting, they pointed directly to Annaliese and asked Nollie straight out if she was a Jew? Nollie reluctantly answered, “yes.” They were both arrested where Nollie was taken to jail and Annaliese to a old Jewish theater in Amsterdam where she would be transported to the extermination camps.
“No ill will happen to Annaliese, God will not let them take her to Germany. He will not let her suffer because I obeyed Him.” This was Nollie’s message that Corrie received.
Six days after Nollie and Annaliese were arrested the Jewish Theater was broke into and forty Jews were rescued. One of them, a young woman was most insistent to get word to Nollie…the message was….Annaliese is free.
Ten days after Nollie had been in jail she was transferred to a federal prison in Amsterdam. Corrie, after pleading with numerous officials, found a sympathetic doctor who arranged for her release seven weeks later.
On February 28, 1944 Nollie was once again arrested as the Germans raided her father’s watch shop. She along with her brother Willem, son Peter, sisters Betsie and Corrie, and her father Casper, were arrested and taken to jail. Weeks later Nollie, her son and brother, were released while her father and sisters remained in prison.
Nollie pleaded on their behalf but to no avail. She remained faithful to follow their plight and wrote letters, provided medicine and what little means permitted in hopes to keep them connected and encouraged. She even smuggled in a Bible to her sister Corrie which was at great risk due to the forbiddance of German law, an act punishable by imprisonment or death.
Nollie remained free throughout the rest of the German occupation but did not escape the pain of losing her loved ones under the cruel injustices of Hitler’s decrees.
On October 22, 1953 just eight years after the war ended and Holland had been liberated, Nollie died at the age of 63.
Next post in series – Separated But Not Broken