Victorious: Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place is released today by Paraclete Press!
Here’s an excerpt on how this classic work came to be:
On the night of September 11, 1944, over the southern German city of Darmstadt, the No. 5 Group of the Royal Air Force leveled the city, making 66,000 of the city’s 110,000 residents homeless overnight.
That night Klara Schlink and Erika Madauss “found themselves vividly confronted with their own mortality,” says historian George Faithful of Dominican University of California. “In their prayers that night they committed their lives completely to God.” The next morning, these women, who were leaders of a Bible study in the Lutheran Church, found themselves among the survivors in the devastated city.
More than their possible deaths had been on these women’s minds. According to Faithful, “[They] had always fought against the teachings of the Reich Church, emphasizing continuity between the Old and New Testaments, and the special status of the Jews as God’s chosen people. They also incorporated intense supernaturalism into their teaching, in contrast to the prevailing rationalism of German theology.”
True to their promise, after the war was finally over, in September 1947, Schlink and Madauss formally founded the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. From then on, Schlink would be known as Mother Basilea and Madauss would be Mother Martyria. The new order of Protestant nuns embraced poverty, celibacy, and communal, cloistered life.
Mother Basilea, the spiritual and intellectual leader of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, emphasized both repentance and Jewish-Christian reconciliation. Summarizing her thought, Faithful writes, “The German people bore a collective debt to the Jewish people. German Christians were complicit in the Holocaust because of their overwhelming silence. They had a special duty to repent of the war and to seek reconciliation with Jews and with the new nation of Israel. Even when it was near impossible for a German citizen to secure a visa to travel there, Mother Basilea went to Israel, establishing a home to care for Holocaust survivors.”
In 1966, the sisters completed the construction of their cloister, which is called Kanaan. The first building, called the Motherhouse, was built with stones from a demolished Nazi army barracks. An anonymous sister said that “everything here should be a reminder of the great Canaan, the Holy Land, and, with it, Jesus.”
In May 1968, Elizabeth Sherrill visited Kanaan, which continued the Sisterhood’s work of assisting Jewish survivors, letting them tell their stories, and speaking the truth about the Nazi era. Sherrill was drawn there because the cloister and its work stood in such contrast to the anti-Semitism and outright Holocaust denial she was hearing. Sherrill, who was born in 1928, said the war was “terribly real” to her during her high school years in Scarsdale, New York. She wanted people to remember what happened so that such horrors would never happen again.
“At that point, there was an effort to sweep it under the rug,” Sherrill recalled. “Most Germans were in denial and went to great lengths thinking the Holocaust never happened. It was simply too terrible to believe.”
Sherrill and her husband, John, were also in the early stages of founding a new publishing house, called Chosen Books. Their goal was to search “the world for books that would have two criteria. They would be interesting. They would be helpful.” The couple was also looking to develop new authors. Sherrill stumbled upon both at Kanaan.
Two speakers were featured during an evening service. One was a Jewish man who had survived brutal treatment at a concentration camp; his father and brother had not. The man was shaking and bitter, still traumatized. Then the other speaker stood up—white-haired and wearing sensible shoes. Though this woman, too, had lost numerous loved ones to the Nazi horror and had seen the worst evil that human nature can inflict, she was beaming with peace and joy.
“I want to talk with you,” Elizabeth Sherrill said when the talk was over. “You must have some secret.”
Indeed she did. In the camps she had found a “hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest … the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isa. 32:2). The woman’s name was Corrie ten Boom.