By: Diana Perez
On November 24, 2012 my grandmother and I boarded a plane; we were on our way to Amsterdam. My grandmother had always wanted to go to Europe and when the opportunity came we packed our bags on were on our way. On the plane I began skimming through a travel guide book to see what places we would visit on our stay. I was looking forward to go to the museums and walking around seeing all the pretty buildings. A few days into our vacation we were given the suggestion to go on the train and visit the small town of Haarlem which is about 20 minutes away from Amsterdam. In this town there was the Ten Boom Museum. I hadn’t previously heard about this museum or about this family’s story, but I began to look up its history before we went and I was really amazed with the Ten Boom story and was eager to make the trip to the museum.
After a train ride (and a few hours of walking in the wrong direction), we found the Ten Boom clock shop, that is still running, and the museum which is the old Ten Boom house, conserved for people to come visit and learn about the family and the people who were helped by the courageous Ten Boom family during the second world war. The ten Boom family consists of Casper who was the father of Nollie, Betsie, Corrie and Willem. The family business was watch making, this was passed down from generation to generation. Casper’s daughter Corrie was actually the first licensed female watchmaker in Holland. The family were devout Christians and felt that it was their duty as to help those in need. Casper inherited the house from his father, and in return he gave it to Corrie.
As we were invited into the museum, the tour guide first led us to the family room; here is where the head of the family,Willem ten Boom, would lead prayer services for the Jewish which began in 1844.This became a tradition that his son Casper continued. When World War II began the ten Boom home served as an underground safe house for the Jews. The tour guide told us that the family would play Jewish music to their guests, but it couldn’t get too loud in fear that someone outside would be able to hear. We were then led upstairs to a big red living room which was used as a conference room; the family wanted a place in the house big enough for them and their guests. The ten Boom’s would practice drills with their guests in case they had to hide them if someone were to find out about their illegal operation; if the Nazis were to find out about them helping out Jews or people in the Dutch underground, they could be imprisoned. They would time how long it would take for the guests to make it through the crawl space in Corrie’s book shelf into the secret hiding place, trying to make the time for under a minute.
Although family was able to help around 800 Jews escape, but unfortunately someone had deceived the ten Boom family and the home was raided in 1944. Before the raid, Corrie was able to alert the people they were hiding in their house to go into the secret room behind a wall in her bedroom. We were shown into Corrie’s room which hid a secret room that concealed six people, four Jews and two underground workers. While the family was being interrogated in the house, the gestapo was looking for the secret room that the hidden Jews and underground workers were in; they had to endure two days of standing still in the tight space to avoid from being caught. We were able to see the tiny vent above the secret room, this was the only source of air they had. Because the family was arrested by the gestapo and sent to prison, two other underground workers snuck them out and off to another refuge house. In prison, Corrie was given the news that they had escaped. Despite being imprisoned Corrie ten Boom and her sister still prayed and got other women to begin practicing the Christian faith. Corrie was the only one of her immediate family that survived after the war. The ten Boom family was willing to go against the rest in order to do the right thing;to me the experience of going to this museum was very inspirational because it showed me how beliefs and family and kindness can surpass anything. Corrie went on to live in California and became an author, sharing her and her families experiences with the rest of the world.
This link can go more into detail of the family’s story and about the museum. The website also offers a virtual tour which is very fascinating.