We begin our story with Cornelia (nicknamed Corrie) who was born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1892. She was raised in a devoted Christian atmosphere and lived in a large house above her father’s business where he was a jeweler and watch maker. This loving family believed in demonstrating their spiritual convictions by offering shelter, food and help to anyone in need. They also held a deep respect for the Jewish community in Amsterdam, considering them precious in God’s sight and during World War II, actually participated in an underground organization that secretly hid hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by Nazi authorities.
Within their home, they built false walls, and alarm systems, but eventually were betrayed by one of their Dutch neighbors. Unfortunately, all ten of the family members were incarcerated, including Corrie's 84-year-old father, who soon died in the Scheveningen prison, located near The Hague. Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie suffered and died there on December 16, 1944. Corrie miraculously survived and in her book entitled The Hiding Place, she tells her inspiring story about the power of forgiveness. The depth of what she learned is seen in quotes such as this one; “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
The evil horrors of the holocaust are beyond comprehension and a sad reminder of the fallen state of mankind. When Corrie and Betsy were struggling to stay alive with sleeping on lice infested straw and nothing to eat but a small amount of bread and water each day, she tells of a particular prison guard that was cruel to them and how these nightmares haunted and tortured her soul.
When Germany surrendered the war, Corrie was finally released and after regaining her health, she began traveling around the world giving her testimony for Jesus. Another of her popular declarations is, “Love is the strongest force in the world” (especially when we include our enemies).
It was now 1947 and she had been invited to a large gathering in Munich to share with a devastated country how God desires that we let go of the resentment and forgive each other. Her message was centered on confessing our sins, and as we forgive, God is faithful to forgive us and begin the healing process. She said it was common to have auditoriums filled with solemn faces and when dismissed they would not say anything and quietly leave.
She had just finished speaking when she saw a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat working his way toward her and then it was instantly clear, this was the evil guard from the concentration camp. He did not recognize her, and exclaimed, “What a fine message you have spoken fräulein” as he stretched out his hand. He joyfully confirmed how good it is to know that our sins are washed away forever. She literally felt paralyzed as it seemed the entire world had stopped. Emotionally confused, she fumbled with her pockets and stared at the floor as her mind flashed back to the piles of dirty clothes on the floor and the shame of her and Betsy standing naked in front of him as he mocked and slapped them with his leather crop.
He spoke up again and said she had mentioned Ravensbrück and that he had been a guard there, but since that time, he had become a Christian and now believes that God has forgiven him for the cruel things he did there. Again, the hand came out as he boldly asked, “Will you please forgive me?” She admits this was gut wrenching but placing all of her trust in God, she followed the Biblical command, grabbed his hand and said yes, with all of her heart.
Her words are remembered; “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is the power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach chaplain. Request a free copy of his new CD at: billyhollandministries.com