Lessons from the Dutch Resistance Part One: God Still Does Miracles

 Hi friends!  

   In case you didn’t hear already, I’m working on a historical fiction book set in the Netherlands during World War II. In my research, I’ve read a lot of true stories of courageous, ordinary Dutch citizens who resisted the Nazis. 

   As I read the stories of these members of the Dutch Resistance, similar themes seem to pop up again and again in their stories. Lessons about who God is and how we are to live as Christians. Today’s post is the first of those lessons. 

Lesson #1: God still does miracles. 

   This is one of those themes that I’ve noticed time and again in stories of the Dutch Resistance. God still does miracles. 

   Here are two stories illustrating this truth: 

Story One: The Miracle of the Raincoat 

   Diet Eman was a young woman whose Christian faith motivated her and her fiancé, Hein, to resist the Nazis and help the Jews. As the war progressed, Diet found herself walking, biking, and riding trains all over the Netherlands, finding hiding places for Jews and delivering messages, stolen ration cards, and materials to make false ID cards. 

   One day, Diet was traveling on a train with a false ID and a big envelope of illegal papers inside her blouse–including stolen ration cards and materials to make false IDs for downed Allied pilots (helping Allied pilots was one of the very worst crimes under the Nazi regime). 

   Six Gestapo officers searched the train and soon all six were looking at Diet’s forged ID. They could tell it was fake. When the train stopped, Diet was made to sit on a bench at the station with the six Germans standing around her. One of them at least was always looking at her. Diet knew that she would be taken to prison and thoroughly searched. They would find that envelope and it would all be over. She would almost certainly be “up against the wall”–facing death by firing squad. 

   She began to plead with God, “Lord, if it’s necessary, then we will give our lives, but if it is at all possible, grant that those six men give me half a minute so that I can get rid of this envelope.” 

   What happened next Diet would call “probably the greatest miracle of my whole war experience.” 

   One of the Gestapo agents, a tall man, was wearing a long, shiny, gray plastic raincoat, a marvel in that time and place. 

   “Is that one of those new coats?” another of the Germans asked. “Is it really waterproof?” 

   And so began a conversation about the marvelous coat. 

   “Oh, what a great coat,” said one of the men, “and it has so many pockets.” 

   “You think that it has a lot of pockets on the outside, you should see the inside.” And the tall man opened wide his coat. Five heads looked inside to see the pockets, and Diet had her chance. She pulled the envelope out of her blouse and hurled it as far as she could. 

   The Germans didn’t see her throw it, and later when she was searched, she had nothing incriminating on her. 

Diet and Hein on bicycles

Story Two: The Miracle of the Gun in the Bookshelf 

   Hans Poley was an eighteen-year-old student at Delft Technological University in the Netherlands in early 1943 when an announcement came that all who wanted to continue their studies must sign a declaration of loyalty to the Nazi regime. Those who didn’t sign were to report for deportation to a labor camp in Germany. 

   Hans was a Christian, and when this order came, he made his decision. In his words, “...the war against national socialism was not just a battle with arms; it was an ideological, a religious battle, and I could not sign the declaration.”

   Hans then had to go into hiding and became the first fugitive to be sheltered by the ten Boom family. Later, he was able to get a false ID and became an active member in the Resistance. 

   He had a gun which he kept hidden on a bookshelf at his parents’ home. In Nazi-occupied Holland, owning a gun was a crime punished with an immediate death sentence. 

   While delivering a warning to a fellow Resistance member, Hans was arrested and shortly thereafter interrogated by the ruthless Gestapo. After a few hours of enduring the brutal interrogation, Hans pretended to break down and gave them a false story. 

   “You do know that we’re now going to your home to verify your story?” one of the interrogators asked. 

   And so began what Hans would later call “the darkest hours of my life.” He was certain his home would be ransacked and his story proven false. They would find his gun which meant immediate death by firing squad. 

   His family, his friends, his fiancé were all gone. All that remained was his faith. 

   He prayed hard while he waited for the Gestapo to return. Hours passed in which Hans fluctuated between peace and panic. 

    Late in the evening, the Gestapo returned and so did Hans’ fear. What had happened? Were his parents already in prison? 

   “You probably already know what we found,” one said. “And you also know what that means for you.” 

   This is it, Hans thought and prayed desperately for courage. 

   The Nazi opened his briefcase and threw some items on the table between them. A few underground papers and a boy scout knife. 

   Hans could hardly believe it. Yes, he’d be going to prison or concentration camp. But they hadn’t found his gun! 

   Later Hans learned what had happened. 

    There were twenty-four shelves on the bookcase that held the gun. The Gestapo threw the books off twenty-one of them. One of the only three untouched shelves held his gun. 

Hans Poley


   Some may call those coincidences. I prefer to call them everyday miracles. 

   And those are only two of many such stories. In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of a vitamin bottle that miraculously didn’t run out. In another book, there’s a story about how God used mosquitos to save the life of a Dutch pastor named Pieter and the Jews he was with. One night, he was staying at a home in the woods with a Jewish family, and he couldn’t sleep because of the mosquitos. So he got up and went outside for a walk–and heard Germans coming. He was able to warn the Jews in time and they all escaped to safety. Because God sent some mosquitos to keep him awake. 

   These stories encourage me because the same God that Diet Eman and Hans Poley served is the God I serve. 

   The God who parted the Red Sea and multiplied the loaves and fishes is the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8). 

   He did miracles then, and He still does miracles today. 

   No, He doesn’t always send a miracle to save us. That’s another lesson we’ll see in the lives of Dutch Resistance members. Many of them lost their lives for their part in the Resistance. We may not understand why, but this we do know:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD.

‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Isaiah 55:8-9

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” 

Romans 8:28 

   How marvelous it is to think that the One who spoke the stars into existence and filled the oceans thinks of us. 

   He’s holding the entire universe together, and yet He also counts the number of hairs on our head. 

   Not only does He control the rise and fall of empires, but He acts in even the smallest details of our lives. 

   Not because we’ve done anything to deserve His attention, but simply because He loves us. 

   And that gives me hope. 


Things We Couldn’t Say by Diet Eman with James Schapp

Return to the Hiding Place by Hans Poley

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill 

Quiet Heroes by Andre Stein (note: this book contains mature content) 

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version. 


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