The Watchmaker's Daughter: The True Story of World War II Heroine Corrie ten Boom

Image of The Watchmaker's Daughter: The True Story of World War II Heroine Corrie ten Boom
Release Date: 
March 7, 2023
William Morrow
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“The author keeps The Watchmaker’s Daughter a simple, unadorned story that makes the events even more horrific and universal—especially for our times.”

Larry Loftis in The Watchmaker’s Daughter: The True Story of World War II Heroine Corrie Ten Boom, tells the story of one of the Christians who did the dangerous work of saving Jews from the Nazis in World War II. Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom was the first licensed Dutch woman watchmaker and studied in Switzerland; the author claims that she was “Holland’s best watchmaker.”

The ten Boom family opposed antisemitism and befriended Jews even in the 1930s. Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father, attended Jewish services and studied Jewish religious rites, Willem, her minister brother, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the threat of rising antisemitism two years after Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.

The ten Boom family, however, first became aware of the specific menace of the Nazis with a German apprentice who was a thoroughly indoctrinated member of the Hitler youth. Members of the household do not come to understand what is happening to the government or the media as much as from the example of this boy and his beliefs as an example of something much greater and more horrific.

Loftis is careful and precise in explaining the background so that the reader learns of the coming Holocaust almost as the ten Booms do. The author does provide a concise background of the major events that bring about the Nazis occupation of Holland.

Readers are not burdened with an introduction to Netherlands’ culture, the National Socialist Party, watchmaking, or other distractions from the story.  The author keeps The Watchmaker’s Daughter a simple, unadorned story that makes the events even more horrific and universal—especially for our times.

Hitler had the Netherlands/Holland/Dutch Republic invaded in 1940. Despite being hopelessly outgunned, the Dutch put up a strong resistance but were overwhelmed. Jews were immediately forced to register. Willem ten Boom lined up to receive a Star of David as a sign of protest.

Holland’s general population was placed on ration cards, the nation’s all-important export/import business was shuttered, and the Germans did what they could to restrict access to news. The ten Boom household, however, hid a radio so that they could receive Free Dutch broadcasts from Britain.

Peter van Woerden, their neighbor and church organist went to prison for playing the Dutch national anthem. He twice successfully escaped from arrest when he would have suffered impressment, deportation to Germany, and likely death. Van Woerden survived the concentration camps.

The story of the Jews in Hitler’s occupied Holland is more than The Diary of Anne Frank. As the Nazis began rounding up Jewish people for the concentration camps, the ten Boom family, and many other Dutch citizens, started hiding them. Word spread as to where to go for safety from the Nazis.

Loftis explains that the events that followed were not always successful for the British and for the Dutch resistance. “Liquidation” (execution) of traitors became necessary.  The Watchmaker’s Daughter has many adventures, disappointments, and ample drama.

Corrie ten Boom began her work stealing ration cards for the Jews her family was hiding. She went on to save Dutch refugees, German deserters, and Jews, including more than 100 Jewish babies orphaned by their parents sent to death camps.

Corrie knew that she could be arrested at any time. She and her family were imprisoned in February 1944. At the time, she was deafly ill and her father Casper, her watchmaker mentor, died in custody. Sister Betsey died in the Nazi slave labor camps.

The Ten Booms survived brutal concentration camps, illness, and slave labor. Many of the Dutch were executed or starved to death.  For the whole war, “200,000 Netherlanders had lost their lives in the war” and 16,000 Hollanders were starved to death. Of the Dutch Jews, 140,000 were sent to German concentration camps where 117,000 died.

Corrie faced death many times in her brutal incarceration but was finally returned to Holland, her life saved due to a clerical mistake! She went back to helping the Dutch resistance and, incredibly, after the war ministered to Germans!

Corrie ten Boom became an evangelist for healing Europe after the war. She traveled the world. Her 1971 autobiography The Hiding Place became a bestseller and a major motion picture.

The work of Corrie and her family, in saving Jews and refugees, was not exceptional. Many individuals from different backgrounds risked and sacrificed so much to do what is right. Unfortunately, we still need such inspiration today, as many very different people stand up for human rights, even when the majority feel nothing or differently.

The Watchmaker’s Daughter is a story well worth the time for adult readers but would also make a good companion volume for a young person studying The Diary of Anne Frank, as a means of gaining a broader perspective and context. This work includes a bibliography, Dramatis Personae, illustrations, and notes.