WW II movie drama: Christian students hiding Jews from Nazis
By Rusty Wright
As the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a newly-released film dramatically portrays a forgotten story of dedicated Christian students who played a vital role in rescuing hundreds of Jews from Nazi persecution. Driven by faith, love and conviction, these ordinary people with extraordinary devotion endured great hardship and risked their lives to protect the oppressed from Hitler’s terror.
Dateline: Holland. Sound familiar? The late Corrie ten Boom inspired millions with her 1971 book and 1975 film, The Hiding Place. For sheltering and aiding Jews, she endured Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp. Her father and sister perished in the prisons. Corrie survived and spent her remaining years traveling the world spreading hope, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Now Return to the Hiding Place reveals more of this fascinating story, this time focusing on “Corrie’s teenage army” – Dutch students who resisted the Nazi occupation by spiriting Jews to and from the ten Boom home, conducting espionage, running reconnaissance, and more.
Physics student Hans Poley (David Thomas Jenkins, CSI: Miami) refuses to join the Nazis and takes refuge with the ten Booms, where he befriends Jewish cantor Eusi (John Rhys-Davies, Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings films). Piet Hartog (Craig Robert Young, Hawaii Five-0) and fiancée Aty (Corrie’s niece; Rachel Hewitt) inspire Hans to surveil Nazi movements, map escape routes, warn of danger.
We see action, excitement, suspense. Students break into Nazi offices, rescue an entire orphanage of Jewish children from sure extinction, even blow up a bridge.
As Jewish refugees crowd her family home, Corrie (Mimi Sagadin) wrestles with the morality of lying to Nazis about harboring Jews. Cantor Eusi – despite being slow to help with household chores – is quick with sagacious admonition. The biblical harlot Rahab – Jesus’ ancestor – lied to protect Jewish spies in Jericho, he notes. And in Exodus, Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh to save Hebrew babies; God blessed them. Eusi’s comments provide ethical support for much of what Corrie and the student resisters do.
As the will of the students goes…
I found this story’s student emphasis especially resonant.
Anti-Semitism makes my blood boil, which likely is one reason I found this film so inspiring. My hometown, Miami, has a Jewish population greater than many cities of Israel. Many of my childhood friends were Jewish. In grade school, we sang Hanukkah songs along with Christmas carols. When I discovered that some people didn’t like my Jewish friends simply because they were Jewish, I thought, “That’s pretty stupid!”
Youth education can greatly influence mind-set, as Hitler well understood. Recently I told Ed, a childhood friend, how our youth had shaped my attitudes toward Jewish culture. He concurred. His friendship with Mike, our Jewish classmate, prompted him to join the Boy Scout troop at Mike’s synagogue as the only Gentile troop member. Their class represented candles on a “Living Menorah” during a school Christmas pageant. Ed’s warmth toward Judaism hasn’t waned.
In Jerusalem a few years ago, I asked two professors at Yad Vashem‘s International Institute for Holocaust Research if they knew of Corrie ten Boom. “Oh yes,” they replied. “We have an actress that portrays Corrie for our educational workshops.” Yad Vashem’s special memorial to “The Righteous Among the Nations” honors Gentiles who aided Jews, including Corrie, her father Casper, her sister Elisabeth, and Piet Hartog.
Teach the children well
During the film credits, the real Hans, late in life, reflects on the faith that sustained him all along. Quoting Job, an Old Testament figure also acquainted with hardship, Hans affirms, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”
The watchword for Return to the Hiding Place is “As the will of the students goes, so goes the will of the nation.” This student movement had a profound impact on wartime Holland. The film’s lessons – standing firm in faith, for the persecuted and against tyranny – can be an important part of today’s education. A poignant reminder to “teach the children well.”
Rated PG-13 (USA) “for violence and disturbing thematic material.”
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
Copyright © 2015 Rusty Wright
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