We were not able to purchase tickets ahead of time to tour the Ten Boom “Hiding Place,” so arrived plenty early to stand in line. It’s really surreal to find yourself standing right next to the shop.
Casper ten Boom taught his daughter, Corrie, the intricacies of watch repair. She said:
Father eagerly took on the job of teaching me. I eventually learned the moving and stationary parts, the chemistry of oils and solutions, tool and grindwhuel and magnifying techniques. But Father’s patience, his almost mystic rapport with the harmonies of watchworks, these were not things that could be taught. Wristwatches had become fashionable and I enrolled in a school that specialized in this kind of work. Three years after Mama’s death, I became the first licensed woman watchmaker in Holland. And so was established the pattern our lives were to follow for over twenty years. When Father had put the Bible back on its shelf after breakfast, he and I would go down the stairs to the shop while Betsie stirred the soup pot…There was a constant procession through this little back room. Sometimes it was a customer; most often it was simply a visitor–from a laborer with wooden klompen on his feet to a fleet owner–all bringing their problems to Father. Quite unabashedly, in the sight of customers in the front room and the employees working with us, he would bow his head and pray for an answer. He prayed over the work, too…I would hear him say: “Lord, You turn the wheels of the galaxies. You know what makes the planets spin and You know what makes this watch run…” Through the years he took his stopped watches to “the One who set the atoms dancing,” or “who keeps the great currents circling through the sea.” –Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 69-70
When Holland was invaded by the Nazis, the shop was busier than ever:
For five days Holland held out against the invader. We kept the shop open, not because anyone was interested in watches, but because people wanted to see Father. Some wanted him to pray for husbands and sons stationed at the borders of the country. Others, it seemed to me, came just to see him sitting there behind his workbench as he had for sixty years and to hear in the ticking clocks a world of order and reason. –Ibid, pg. 80
In this group of photos in the house you can see Casper ten Boom, beloved father of Corrie, Betsie, Nollie and Willem (their mother, Cornelia, had passed away in 1921). He was a devout and generous Christian who opened his heart and home to all who passed his way. They took in dozens of foster children through the years. In addition, Willem, Casper’s father, had started a weekly prayer group here in 1844 to pray for Jews and for the peace of Jerusalem; this prayer group continues to this day. 100 years later their home would become a hiding place for Jews. When the Nazis began requiring all Jews to wear the yellow Star of David, Casper voluntarily wore one, too. Corrie held worship services for disabled children for twenty years. They strongly believed that all people were equal before God.
It was not long for the home to become a place of refuge for Jews during the holocaust; in fact, over 800 people came through this home, as a way station to other points, and for others it was a long-term home of refuge. The small “Alpina” advertisement sign was placed in the widow to tell underground workers when it was safe to enter.
Here we were, about to enter the same door in the alleyway. Amazing.
Corrie described what it was like in those early days of occupation:
The true horror of occupation came over us only slowly. During the first year of German rule, there were only minor attacks on Jews in Holland. A rock through the window of a Jewish-owned store. An ugly word scrawled on the wall of a synagogue. It was as though they were trying us, testing the temper of the country. How many Dutchmen would go along with them? And the answer, to our shame, was many…One day as Father and I were returning from our walk we found the Grote Markt cordoned off by a double ring of police and soldiers. A truck was parked in front of the fish mart; into the back were climbing men, women, and children, all wearing the yellow star. There was no reason we could see why this particular place at this particular time had been chosen. “Father! Those poor people!” I cried. The police line opened, the truck moved through. We watched till it turned the corner. “Those poor people,” Father echoed. But to my surprise I saw that he was looking at the soldiers now forming into ranks to march away. “I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God’s eye.” We talked often, Father, Betsie, and I, about what we could do if a chance should come to help some of our Jewish friends. –Ibid, pg. 84-85