Corrie ten Boom

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The young watchmaker

What makes someone a hero? Hollywood feeds us the idea that heroes are young, handsome or beautiful, able to save the day by being tough or athletic.

 The Ten Boom house

The shop belonging to Corrie’s family in Haarlem, which now runs as a museum to the work they did during the Second World War.

Hero movies usually include car chases, explosions, and other death-defying stuff.

Real-life heroes are usually very different to the ones shown in Hollywood blockbusters. Real heroes, the people who display genuine courage, endurance and faith, are often ordinary people you would pass in the street without ever suspecting that they have extraodinary qualities.

Few heroes are more unlikely than Corrie ten Boom.

Born in 1893, Corrie never married, and grew up working in the family watch shop in Haarlem, Holland, with her father and elder sister, Betsie. Corrie’s father Casper had brought up Corrie, Betsie, their older sister Nollie and their brother Willem as Christians, and every morning would read the Bible in front of his employees and family before the start of the day’s business.

When she was in her 30s, Corrie ran clubs for girls and for children with learning difficulties, alongside working in the watch shop. Three years after the death of her mother, Corrie became the first woman in the Netherlands to be fully licensed as a watchmaker.

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, Willem, who had been working as a Lutheran minister in Germany, sent back worrying reports of what was happening there, and especially how Jewish people were being badly treated, simply for being Jews.

Early in 1939, the Ten Booms were forced to dismiss an employee for the first time ever. He was a young German named Otto Altschuler. Altschuler, a proud Nazi, not only expressed contempt towards the Jewish people who were the Ten Booms’ friends and customers, but he also scorned Casper’s daily Bible readings. He had also begun to physically abuse a long-time employee in the shop, an elderly man named Christoffels. He did it for no other reason than Christoffels was old.

As Corrie later recalled:

Father tried to reason with Otto as he let him go, to show him such behaviour was wrong. Otto did not answer. In silence he collected the few tools he had brought with him, and in silence left the shop. It was only at the door that he turned to look at us, a look of the most utter contempt I had ever seen.

The next part of the story is The hiding place

Find links to the story sections in the right hand column.

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About this module

Our famous follower in these pages is Corrie ten Boom, whose family courageously provided a refuge for Jews and others wanted by the Nazis during the German occupation of Holland in the 1940s.

These pages were written by Howard Ingham.

Categories: Lives, Biographical,


Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow The young watchmaker

arrow The hiding place

arrow Narrow escapes

arrow The Gestapo raid the house

arrow The power of forgiveness

arrow Links

arrow Quotes

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