Hermann van Pels

Hermann van Pels begins working with Otto Frank in 1938. Miep Gies remembers him as “tall, large man” and “quite an agreeable sort, [who] had no trouble fitting into the routine” in the company.

Hermann acquired his knowledge of the butcher's trade by working in the business of his father, Aron van Pels (who was originally Dutch). After his marriage to Lina Vorsänger, Aron settled down in Gehrde, Germany. He worked there for his German father-in-law, a wholesaler in butchers' equipment. Aron and Lina had six children: Max, Henny, Ida, Hermann, Klara and Meta. Hermann was born on March 31, 1898. He became the representative of his father's business in Osnabrück, Germany.

Hermann raises a family

On December 5, 1925 he married the German Auguste (Gusti) Röttgen. She then became Dutch, since according to German law women automatically assumed the nationality of their husbands. Gusti was born on September 29, 1900 in Buer, near Osnabrück, and her father was a merchant. Hermann and Gusti lived in Osnabrück, near the Dutch border, where Peter was born on November 8, 1926.


To the Netherlands because of a boycott

In 1933 the Nazis announced a nationwide boycott of all Jewish businesses. The boycott in Osnabrück was disastrous because a Nazi fanatic, a photographer by trade, hung photographs in his shop window of non-Jews who did business with Jewish merchants. Father Aäron van Pels owned a business in butcher supplies in Osnabrück. Hermann and Ida had both worked for their father. Hermann's sister Henny moved her dressmaking business to Amsterdam in 1935. Hermann follows in 1937 and Aäron in 1938 after the Kristalnacht.


Friends of the Frank family

The Rivierenbuurt was a new neighbourhood where many Jewish refugees from Germany came to settle. In 1939 the Van Pels family moved to the Zuider-Amstellaan, right behind the Frank family, who lived on the Merwedeplein. Otto and Edith Frank often had open house on Saturday morning, with coffee and pastries. Hermann and Gusti van Pels were often present, recalls Miep Gies, another frequent guest at these gatherings.


March 31, 1898

Born in Gehrde near Osnabrück (Germany) as the son of a Dutch father and a German mother.

December 5, 1925

Hermann marries Auguste (Gusti) Röttgen.

November 8, 1926

Their son Peter is born.

July 26, 1937

The van Pels family leave for the Netherlands.


Hermann van Pels becomes a partner in Otto Frank’s business.

July 13, 1942

The van Pels family go into hiding in the secret annex.

August 4, 1944

The people in hiding are arrested.

August 8, 1944

The people in hiding are sent to the Westerbork transit camp (the Netherlands).

September 3, 1944

Deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp (in German-occupied Poland).

September 6, 1944

Arrival at Auschwitz. Hermann survives the first selection. A few weeks later he is sent to the gas chambers.

Auguste van Pels Peter’s mother, Hermann’s wife

Auguste is a stylish and rather coquettish woman


Peter van Pels Hermann and Auguste's son

Peter is a quiet boy who likes to work with his hands.


Otto Frank Anne and Margot's father, Edith's husband

Otto sets up a business in the Netherlands. After that, his family can come over too.


Anne writes:

Usually joins in the conversation, never fails to give his opinion. Once he's spoken, his word is final. If anyone dares to suggest otherwise, Mr. Van D. can put up a good fight. Oh, he can hiss like a cat ... but I'd rather he didn't (...) His opinion is the best, he knows the most about everything. Granted, the man has a good head on his shoulders, but it's swelled to no small degree.