UGR Final Report
Kuno van der Horst’s family reached out to Prof. Hearst earlier this year telling him that they had found our previous paper, “The Helpers of the Secret Annex – A Study Guide,” from last summer while working through the Undergraduate Research Program. They were excited to find this information seeing as they had never seen anything about their father like this. They began to exchange emails and soon agreed to let us do another paper focused on Kuno. This is how we gathered most of our information. The van der Horst’s kindly allowed us to use the documents they had regarding their father and his family. This opened up the doors to Henny, his wife, and Catharina, his mother. We began to learn more about the family and the connection they had to Miep Gies, one of Anne Frank’s helpers.
From the help provided by the van der Horst family our research was practically complete. Since the family hardly had any information about them online the majority of our information came from the family themselves or previous research we had done last summer. It was a majority of personal memories from Kuno, Catharina, or Henny that we used and some interviews. These memories gave us their stories during World War II and the experiences they went through while living in Holland. The memories held details of Kuno hiding in Amsterdam with Miep and Jan Gies, Catharina helping to hide Jews before they personally lost their home from Nazis and of the things they all did to survive during the war.
This paper Prof. Hearst and I did this summer is similar to our paper from last summer and the experience has been just as great. It’s been very eye opening to read their personal stories during this time period and gain a little bit more knowledge on the environment of World War II. Having the opportunity to read their memories and to hear from their personal family has left me feeling in awe of how little time has passed from then to now. This has truly just left with me with a stronger sense of what to do during times like these and to read about people who set the example of not backing down during hard times has been a fulfilling experience. World War II has always been one of my favorite topics to learn about due to the intricacy and historical prominence it has inflicted for years to come and to get to discover more details that not many know about has only left me feeling proud of the work we’ve done.
As this is now my second year participating in the program I’ve learned so much and grown since when I first began. My research skills have expanded and my ability to write has improved tremendously throughout the entire experience. It has helped me learn how to communicate with professionals and also my time management in getting things done to respond for the benefit of the project. At times I would get stressed feeling as if I had no idea what I was doing, but Professor Hearst would help me and I would find that it wasn’t that stressful and I did know what I was doing but I needed to push myself.
Ever since I first met Professor Hearst back in the 2017 spring semester he has helped me grow a writer and given me opportunities to expand on my writing credits. He has diligently worked with me to improve my technical skills and critical thinking when it comes to writing and researching. Through him I have also gotten to learn more about people I would have probably never gotten the chance to learn about. The last two papers have been a wonderful learning experience and it is all thanks to Professor Hearst.
At first, for me, this project seemed difficult and daunting. I was no longer merely helping with the research, but I had to write for myself. It was nerve-wracking at first because in my head I didn’t have enough information to go off of only. To me, this project had first come to fruition to share the story of Kuno and his connection to Miep Gies and the Frank’s, but I still had questions about every detail of Kuno van der Horst’s life because I thought it’d make it easier for me to write and understand. Though, as I began I realized that wasn’t the case at all. As I got more comfortable with writing it and the story of the van der Horst family it all began to piece together. It no longer felt as daunting; it was still a lot of information to read through and decide if it should be included or not, but I didn’t feel as nervous. The main challenge I began to have was after all of the information was written down. The editing process made me realize how much more I need to work on my writing skills and my attention to detail. It showed me that it’s been quite some time since I’ve really written and looked at my writing in a critical manner. Although at times I felt like I caught on to mistakes before I’d send it back to Prof. Hearst there was always something I’d forget to correct. This has helped me immensely though to realize these mistakes and even though there are always new ones I can continue to learn and grow as a writer.
As Prof. Hearst and I are in the final stages of our project it’s hard to imagine the beginning of the summer when I was still trying to scramble enough ideas on how to piece together all of the information. The information that was provided to us by Kuno van der Horst’s family and their generous help gave us the opportunity to share a story that needed to be shared. The story of Kuno and his family is one that is probably shared with many families during this time period. A will to help and fight against an oppressive force and to help those more defenseless than you. Although there may be many stories like the van der Horst’s it doesn’t mean that not every story should be shared. From what I’ve learned through last summer and now is that to stand in the face of such trying times and to cower away only adds to you helping the people in the wrong. From Anne Frank’s helpers to Kuno van der Horst’s family these people risked their lives to do what was right. Just like the project from last summer it has only opened up my eyes more to the need to stand for what is right and to not be selfish in times of peril, but to risk your life knowing that you’re helping someone else. Leading into the future these historical stories should be a guiding light for everyone and give people the courage to keep fighting even if they want to give up, just keep fighting because the end result will not leave you with regret or sadness. It’ll leave you with pride knowing that you did everything in your power to go against something that was blatantly morally wrong.
The title of the project Prof. Hearst and I are working on is, “More Than a Footnote- Kuno van der Horst’s Anne Frank Connection.” This project aims to shed light on Kuno van der Horst and his wife Hendrika and what they went through during this time, but also their unknown connection to the helpers and Anne Frank. Through this information, we want to shed light on the different experiences that happened during World War II and simple unknown ways these people helped others during the war. To spread the story of Kuno and what he went through and the things that happened in Holland during the war will hopefully shed more light on the struggles of the everyday people.
Kuno’s family contacted Prof. Hearst and have given us more information on Kuno and Hendrika to share with our research. This is a continuation of our research from last summer and with that, we have past research, but also the ability to contact the family and gain more information. This will help expand the information since there is very little information online. We have this special source to spur us on with our research and any questions we have. This also gives us a more personal look into their lives and the lives of people who lived through that time.