The Watch­mak­er’s Daughter

  • Review
By – August 28, 2023

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.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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