Field Trip: CANDLES Holocaust Museum

Our November Book Club selection was Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place, and rather than having one of our usual discussion/activity/food meetings, we instead took a field trip. I've been on a lot of field trips in the 25+ years I've been homeschooling, but I think this will remain among the most memorable.

But first - a bit about our book.

The Hiding Place tells how the ten Boom family's involvement with the Dutch Underground during WW II as they worked to preserve the life of their Jewish neighbors.  Sisters Corrie and Betsie, both middle-aged women, eventually end up at Scheveningen, Vught, and finally Ravensbruck concentration camps. Through unimaginable horrors, Betsie and Corrie's faith shines. Here are a couple of quotes from the book:

“Perhaps only when human effort had done it's best and failed, would God's power alone be free to work.” 

“There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.” 

Corrie is a wonderful (and honest) storyteller, and readers' faith will be stretched as watch Betsie and Corrie trust God in the midst of evil.

So where did we go? We traveled just over an hour west to the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, IN.

Just what is CANDLES? It stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.

CANDLES was started by Mrs. Eva Mozes Kor, who along with her twin sister, Miriam, was subjected to horrific medical experimentation performed by Dr. Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Dr. Mengele especially liked to study twins who provided a perfect control. Often if one twin died from some treatment, he would kill the other as well so he could do comparative autopsies.

Ben with Mrs. Kor

And we planned our trip on a day when we would be able to meet with Mrs. Kor and hear her story personally.

Oh my!!! What an amazing woman! Mrs. Kor, an 82 year old, 4'10" dynamo, talked to us for two hours, telling her life history and the lessons she has learned. What a privilege.

It is easy to see how young Eva gave the Nazi's (and later the Communists) such a hard time. Captured at the age of 10, she determined that she and her twin would survive. And they both did, despite enduring "medical" experimentation which nearly killed Eva and caused her sister Miriam's kidneys never to grow beyond the size of a 10 year olds, eventually leading to her death decades later.

She showed us her Auschwitz tattoo and told us what life was like for her family before and during the war, how she and Miriam survived, and much more.

After immigrating to Israel and finishing school there, Eva one day met an American tourist from Indiana. Mickey also was a concentration camp survivor. He'd been liberated by the Americans, and one soldier in particular had offered to do whatever he could to help him. Hailing from Terre Haute, IN, this soldier eventually helped Mickey Kor immigrate to his home town, where the two men remained friends for years.

Today Mrs. Kor speaks to groups of all kinds and travels frequently to tell her story and also how she has come to forgive those who perpetrated these horrors. This year alone she has been to Auschwitz four times. Oh - and she does Podcasts and tweets. Yes, she is one spunky lady!

Before too long, there will no longer be WW II heroes and survivors around to talk with. If you have a chance, make plans to visit the CANDLES Museum. (And call ahead to make sure you can be there on a day when Mrs. Kor will be speaking!)

Because this museum focuses on victims who were children, the exhibits are created with young visitors in mind. Yes, it is terribly sad and hard to take (I wept throughout the presentation), but still appropriate for older children. Ben's comment was, "Well, I can't exactly say I enjoyed that." But he then went on to talk about how meeting Mrs. Kor helped him understand the reality of the evils of the holocaust in ways that just reading a book couldn't do. When reading even an excellent book like The Hiding Place, there is a distance that recedes when you meet someone in person who has lived through those experiences.

Finally, here's one more book recommendation along the WW II/forgiveness theme. My family has read plenty of the Christian Heroes, Then and Now series, but this is one of our all-time favorites. Jacob Deshazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders, was shot down over Japanese controlled China and the imprisoned. This book tells how he came to faith while in prison, learned to love and forgive his captors, and eventually returned to Japan as a missionary.


That sounds like an amazing trip and so many things to think about/discuss arising from this.
What sort of age are the children in the book club? I run a home education book club and at some point, we are due to cover Europe. The Hiding Place would be an ideal book but I am a bit concerned that it may be too old for 8-11s. Do you have a view on that?
Anne said…
Hi Sarah,

The children in our book club range from 9-14. We're fewer in number this year, but sometimes we still offer two different book options for different reading ages. For example, when we recently read James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small, the younger children read James Herriot's Treasury for Children. (I haven't blogged about that Book Club yet, but it was terrifically fun!) A good alternative to The Hiding Place is Geoff and Janet Benge's biography of Corrie ten Boom which is part of the Christian Heroes Then and Now series. One of the younger children in our group listened to that book, and we read it aloud in my family a few years ago.

I asked for opinions from the other moms in my group, and they agreed that 10 and up was probably a good recommendation for the Hiding Place. My youngest is 12, and I think that is about the age his older siblings were when they read The Hiding Place.

And speaking of amazing field trips - I am so inspired as I read the places you take your family to places I only dream about!

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