This excellently researched account of the life of Corrie Ten Boom and her family reads as smoothly as the best historical fiction books. Larry Loftis is the New York Times–bestselling author of three nonfiction thrillers. The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the first biography of Ten Boom, an ambitious and skilled young woman who became an important member of the Dutch resistance against the Nazis. Ten Boom wrote The Hiding Place, a memoir depicting her and her sister Betsy’s horrific experiences as prisoner/slaves in Ravensbruck, the notorious concentration camp for women. Her book is one of the primary sources of information for Loftis’s. He supplements hers by including an appendix and bibliography with many more details about, and photographs of, Ten Boom and her family before, during, and after the war.
Willem Ten Boom began the family watchmaking business in Haarlem, Holland in 1837. His family lived above the shop, which became known as the Beje. He was influenced by his Dutch Reformed minister to pray for Jerusalem and the Jews, and created a tradition in which his family would host community prayer.
His son Casper, aka “Opa,” was Holland’s best watchmaker. He had deep respect for Judaism and spent time learning with and observing the community in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam, where he owned a watch business. When he moved back to Haarlem, Opa became a beloved role model and spiritual guide for his family and community.
Casper’s daughter Corrie became his apprentice, then studied in Switzerland to hone her skills. In 1921, she became the first licensed female watchmaker in Holland.
Her brother Willem was a preacher who worried greatly about antisemitism. He received his PhD in Leipzig; his thesis, about “the birth of modern racial antisemitism in France and Germany,” was published just two years after Hitler’s second volume of Mein Kampf.
Willem ministered to the Jews of Amsterdam, welcoming discussion and opening his home. Soon his family home, the Beje, would provide refuge for Jews and become a center of Dutch resistance, thanks to Casper and Corrie’s compassionate efforts. But this put the Ten Booms and their underground network at great risk.
On November 10, 1938, Kristallnacht actualized Hitler’s plans to burn synagogues, loot shops, and attack Jews. Most of the Dutch were unaware or couldn’t imagine anything like it happening in Holland. They revered their queen and were uplifted by her encouragement to resist the Nazis.
As Hitlers actions escalated in the Netherlands, the Beje became an important, albeit secret, haven. The residents came together as transient Jews and non-Jews passed through seeking shelter, food, and respite.
Loftis continues to document the war years. He includes excerpts of Anne Frank’s writings about what she and her family were enduring. We learn about the great tests of faith, hope, and luck of the Ten Boom family and their hidden community. Gestapo atrocities are described in detail. Though individuals’ faith sometimes wavered, most relied heavily on prayer and belief in Jesus. Devout Christians revere Corrie Ten Boom for her steadfastness. She herself admired her sister Betsy for her pure and complete faith, forgiveness, compassion, as well as her mission to establish a place of rehabilitation for victims of the horrors — and even some of the perpetrators.
This book is a unique depiction of the Holocaust years, as experienced by a person who is widely known as Righteous Among the Nations.