A Prisoner and Yet
A Prisoner and Yet is an autobiographical piece of non-fiction that was written by Corrie ten Boom two years after her release from the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
The book is set up in a style that differs from what I am used to. In it, rather than focusing on her story, Corrie addresses individual occurrences she experienced over the course of her imprisonment. Later on, she treats each almost like a parable, using the one to two page subchapter to illustrate either a spiritual or moral lesson for the reader.
Over the course of the 170 page book, she addresses a widespread variety of topics including faith, compassion, fear, acceptance of death, courage, strength, sin, love, morality, turning the other cheek, timidity, prayer, covetousness, kindness, and even the bond between brothers and sisters in Christ despite of language barriers.
It’s really quite remarkable. I started the book thinking the set up would prove awkward and unsettling, but I soon found myself engrossed, incapable of putting the book down. With each flip of the page, my thirst for a definitive ending to Corrie’s struggles grew. I was hooked.As an autobiographical account, the hero of A Prisoner and Yet. . . was naturally the author, Corrie ten Boom, and, boy, let me tell you, she was a hero.
Selfless and strong-willed, the Dutch watchmaker stood firm in her beliefs even when she had lost everything: her freedom, her family, her country, and even the clothes off her back.
The Lord Jesus Christ was her Conqueror. Through His grace and glory, she knew she would be delivered. Corrie did not fear death in the camps. Rather, she embraced the opportunity to spread the Word of God. She preached daily, sometimes up to five times, and prayed with those in need or coming into the faith.
It was amazing that someone so oppressed and in such close proximity to death could still have so much hope and conviction. Throughout the book, Corrie attributed much of her survival to the constant companionship of her sister Betsie. Betsie was equally faithful and often provided spiritual guidance when Corrie felt herself straying or in need of extra help.
They were inseparable. Sadly, Betsie was a frail thing. She could not carry out heavy labor and became sick easily. Corrie often wondered at her sister’s seemingly innocent view of their wretched surroundings. She always looked so peaceful. It was terrible to read when poor Betsie died of sickness, but at least she had gone to a far better place.
The story begins with a recollection of the author’s life before imprisonment. The readers are given a quick description of the author’s home which she shared with her father, Casper Ten Boom, siblings, and an eclectic group of Jews. After the fall of Holland in 1940, the Ten Booms had joined the Dutch resistance, offering a safehouse for God’s People. According to the author, “it was often said (that their house), ‘was the gayest underground address in all the Netherlands'” (ten Boom 7).
They were contented, as close to at peace as they could be in such a dark time. Sadly, on February 28, 1944, that peace ended. The ten Boom residence was raided by the Gestapo. Their house was searched and the family was taken into custody. Corrie, her father, and Betsie were transferred to Scheveningen Prison. There, Corrie hardly ever saw the sunlight, spending her days locked in solitary confinement.
Later on in her time there, waiting to go on trial, she found out that her father had died shortly after being brought to the prison.She and her sister were reunited when they were sent to Kamp Vught, a political concentration camp. There, conditions were not so bad. They were able to slack off at work and received Red Cross packages and mail from home.
Due to her background as a watchmaker, Corrie was given the opportunity to do detailed work on radio parts. After awhile, she and her sister were transferred to a German concentration camp called Ravensbruck. As Corrie aptly described it, the place was hell. They were stripped naked and forced to hand over their belongings before being redressed and sent to barracks where the beds looked more like a line of shelves, tightly packed with women instead of books.
Using a bible they had snuck in, the sisters performed worship services with the girls in their barracks daily, keeping up the dwindling morale. Slowly, they became thinner and weaker – Betsie more so than Corrie. Finally, one day in late fall of 1944, Corrie heard the voice of God tell her that her release was drawing near and that she would be free by the first day of winter. This prediction became reality, but sadly fifteen days too late for Betsie. Corrie’s sister had gone Home to meet her Maker.
The author finished the story by telling of her return to the Netherlands and documenting her decision to open a home which “would soon be the happy home of people who had been released from the wretchedness of imprisonment” (ten Boom 169).
In the end, I believe that Corrie Ten Boom wrote this novel as a testament to the horrors of her experience and to the strengthening of her faith through the experience.
A Prisoner and Yet. . . immortalized both her story and, by extent, the stories of many women, men, and children who were held at the various prisons and camps across Europe during the Nazi regime. I am thankful that I stumbled upon it and I would recommend the read to those struggling with their faith, growing in their faith, or merely interested in the treatment of political prisoners in WWII.