rebelling against low expectations

Students, You Can Change Your Nation


“As goes the will of the students, so goes the will of the nation.”

On February 6th, 1943, the students of Amsterdam were forced to make a life-altering decision: sign a declaration of loyalty to the Nazi regime, or be subjected to forced labor for the glory and advancement of the Third Reich.

Hans Poley—teenager, student, Rebelutionary—was one of the few to stand strong.

He refused to sign.

Those were his words. This is his story.

December 1942 marked the beginning of his journey. Previously exempt from conscription due to his age, the now eighteen-year-old Hans was in danger of being forced to fight for the Reich. With the Gestapo continually harassing students, he stayed on the move, going from place to place in an attempt at evasion. Then, the fatal announcement, a forced choice of loyalties. Hans said,

“The battle against national socialism was not just a battle with arms; it was ideological, a religious battle, and I could not sign the declaration.”

By May 1943, Hans Poley was an outlaw. His refusal to declare his loyalties caused the threat of Nazi arrest to hover over him, and his parents.

For over a year he went into hiding, staying with the now-famous ten Boom family in their little watch shop on the BeJe.

Unable to leave the shelter and relative safety of the BeJe, the weeks and months crawled by. He passed some time by typing resistance literature for the underground pamphlet network. He remembers, “More and more underground newsletters and bulletins served as duty calls to those who too long had complied with — even accommodated — Nazi oppression. Each carbon copy meant one more appeal to resist the enemy. ‘Multiply and pass on’ was the password.”

But soon, Hans felt the pull of resistance work even more keenly. The lack of justice toward God’s chosen people affected him strongly, and he knew God was calling him to take a more active stand, though doing so could cost him his life.

After underground workers obtained him a certificate of exemption, and a new identity card, forging a different birth year and declaring him a Dutch assistant minister, he was finally free to walk the streets without danger of arrest.

Hans quickly began whatever resistance work he could. Delivering messages, warning others of expected Gestapo raids, logging the activities of feared Gestapo agents, delivering smuggled ration cards to desperate families in hiding… each act pulled him deeper into danger and risk of discovery, but he trusted that, as Corrie ten Boom often reminded him, “God’s angels surrounded them.”

One cold February morning, after an underground mission, Hans was discovered and arrested. The Gestapo took him to the Haarlem police station for harsh interrogation. He later described this as,

“The darkest hours of my life… I had come to the end of my possibilities. The shadow of death fell over me. Everything that had been my life was fading before my eyes and heart: my love, my family, my future. Only one unshakable certainty remained: the promise of my Father in Heaven that even in the valley of the shadow of death, He would be with me.”

After weeks of prison, he was transferred to the Amersfoort concentration camp, where he spent six months suffering greatly for being obedient to God’s call. He was released on August 16, 1944, and again went into hiding, until the occupying German army in Holland unconditionally surrendered.

Was all the pain and hardship worth it to follow the call of obedience? To Hans, yes. He said afterward that, “The continuing presence of my Father in Heaven sustained me. That inner peace made me invulnerable to the constant abuse by the forces of evil.”

Hans’s story is incredible. It challenged and convicted me, inspired and stirred my heart to radical faith. These few paragraphs aren’t enough to contain his extraordinary testimony. He embodied, in my opinion, the very definition of the word, “Rebelutionary.”

But one question burns bright in my heart.

If what Hans said is true, “As goes the will of the students, so goes the will of the Nation,” and if this is evidence of the effect and impact young people can do with their lives, why aren’t they doing it?

We may never rebel against an evil and oppressive government, join a resistance movement, save hundreds of lives, or serve time in a concentration camp for taking a stand for justice. (Though to be honest, our future is always uncertain.) Even so, we do have opportunities.

We are the voice of the future. Within our generation live future national, state, and local leaders. The next pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. Upcoming writers and speakers, doctors, lawyers, teachers.

And not only are we future leaders. We are present ones as well. Even if you don’t realize it, you are a leader.

We each have a sphere of influence. Great or small, you help contribute to what your tiny part of the world looks like.

For Hans, and ultimately for us as well, it comes down to these questions.

Are we living like our lives matter? Are we making the most of the time, energy, and influence that God has given us? And the most important question of all: are we willing to pay whatever price to follow Jesus?

If we, the students, would answer these questions, and dare to live boldly and sold out for Christ, it would transform the “will” of our homes, schools, communities, and yes, nation.

I desire to live as Hans did. To, in whatever circumstance, follow Christ wholeheartedly. It’s a life of boldness, risk, reliance in the One who holds our future. But the rewards far surpass any cost. As Eusi, one of Hans’s dearest friends, wrote, “The righteous of the nations will be part of the world to come.”

Indeed. May it be said of us.

To learn more about Hans, I highly recommend “Return to the Hiding Place”, by Hans Poley and “Return to the Hiding Place: The Movie” All quotes and information for this article came from those sources. 

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

There are currently __ Comment(s)


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I love Han’s story as well. The way he used his life to glorify God is remarkable. Thank you for writing this article Sara! It was truly inspiring 😀

    • Aww, thanks so much, Haven! And yes, remarkable would be the word! As soon as I discovered him, I knew I had to share his story and what I learned from it! 🙂

  • Sara, you’ve done it again! This was truly inspiring. Thank you for bringing the story of Hans to my attention, it is quite amazing!!!

    • Oh, you are so sweet, Katelyn! You should watch the movie and read the book! They are soooo good! And there’s actually a lot to his story that I had to leave out–I tried to hit the highlights. 😉 Thank you SO much for taking the time to read this!

  • This was truly a remarkable story and you shared it so well. May this be proof that it doesn’t matter how old you are, who you know, or how well known a person is, all of us can make a difference. For Christ and His everylasting Kingdom! Thanks for sharing this, Sara!!

  • I love Hans Poley’s story! I watched the movie based on his story last year and it had me hooked. The people who made the film were actually personal friends with Hans.

    • Me too, Audrey! I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat! Have you read the book? If not, you need to! It’s incredible! Thank you for taking the time to read this!

  • This was a very well-written article, Sara! I love the movie and want to read the book at some point. Hans’s story is truly inspiring and I look forward to meeting him one day. 🙂

    • Oh, so do I, Melinda! I hope you love the book as much as I did! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! God bless!

  • I love this story!!! And this is SO amazing and inspiring, thank you for writing this!!

    • Thank YOU, Karissa! I love it to. I’m so excited I was able to share it!

      And BTW, I wasn’t able to comment on your article yesterday, but I wanted to because it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear!!! Thank you so much for writing it… it really encouraged me! 🙂

    • Awww, thank you Anna! That means so much to me! I’m so glad it was inspiring to you! <3

  • Thank you for pushing me to good works.

    Also I’m so impressed/jealous of your writing, you totally pulled me in.

    • Oh, you just made my day! I had such fun writing this, so I’m so blessed you enjoyed it! But honestly, I have to point all the credit back to Jesus! Without Him I wouldn’t be able to write at all, and without His grace and love there would be nothing worth writing about! Thank you so much for your sweet words and for taking the time to read this! It means SO much to me!

  • Wow, this is an amazing story! Thanks so much for sharing. It’s definitely a call to us as young people to “change the will of this country” as you so aptly put it!

    • Isn’t it, though? I am so excited about this topic, so being able to share this was such fun! Thank you for reading it!

  • Very good! I became emotional when I read it, because, as an Afrikaans Christian, I care about the Dutch. And it was a good call to total obedient surrender to Christ 🙂 which is, after the Gospel, my favorite subject 🙂 Oh! And the part about the youth being future missionaries and evangelists! Being both, I was glad somebody remembered we exist 🙂

    • Louis, thank you so much for this comment. I loved reading it, and I’m so excited that my article resonated so deeply with you. 🙂 Total obedient surrender, while not by any means an easy topic, is one I’m passionate about too! And we do remember that you missionaries and evangelists exist! 🙂 At least I do, and pray for y’all, as I truly believe that sharing the Gospel is the most impact-full and important thing we could ever do. Thank you so much for all you do for Jesus! 🙂 And thank you for taking the time to read and comment! It means so much to me! 🙂

      • Hey Sara! Thanks for the reply. And for using “y’all”–I come from Texas 🙂 When you said, “Thank you so much for all you do for Jesus!” I sat back and closed my eyes and revisited memories of difficult things I did in obedience to Christ, even when it led to being despised and rejected of men–being looked down upon by openly unsaved people didn’t bother me, it was when the Pharisees stabbed me in the back that it hurt–but it gave me a deeper insight into what it means to associate with Christ to the point of sharing in His sufferings. But He has done much more for me than I for Him, and He deserves my undying love and obedience.

        • Your commitment and obvious love for Christ humbles and inspires me. It’s so true…He has done so much for us…it’s beautiful and awe-inspiring and way deeper than our human comprehension can fathom. Thank you so much for sharing, Louis. I’m so sorry. It breaks my heart that even those proclaiming to follow Christ would act in such ways. But didn’t Jesus tell us to expect that? Even so, I can understand how painful that would be. As I was reading your comment, I was remembering the times I said “no” to God because of my fear or pride and how bitterly I now regret that. Your devotion to Christ inspires mine. 🙂 So thank you for that as well!

          And as far as “y’all” goes, I actually say it all the time. 🙂 I’m a native northerner with a southern heart. I’m still convinced I was born in the wrong state… 😉

  • Very powerfully written, @sarabarratt:disqus! Thanks for this wonderful article and reminder that we, by the power of God, can change the world! To God be the glory!

    • Thank you! Yes, you can absolutely share it! If you want to share it on a blog, you can post the beginning and then have a link back here for the rest. 🙂 Other than that feel free to share to share on the social media or however you like! 🙂 Thank you so much for your sweet words!

  • I have been fascinated with the Holocaust for many years and I recently reread The Hiding Place and was moved to tears because of the ten Boom family’s commitment to Jesus, but I have never heard of Hans Poley, so thank you so much for sharing his story! LOVE this.

    • Yay! I’m so excited you enjoyed it, Hailey! I know what you mean, I cried when I read The Hiding Place too! You need to read Return to the Hiding Place! It was soooo good!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →