The flight of the Frank family, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer

From Germany to the Netherlands

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'We too might move on'

An exhibition from 2012 on the futile attempts to flee the Netherlands of the Frank family, the Van Pelses and Fritz Pfeffer.


How welcome were the Frank family in the Netherlands?

Article on Jewish refugees in the 1930's


Van Pels family

Hermann van Pels was born in Germany. His father was Dutch and he therefore had Dutch nationality. When he married Auguste Röttgen in 1925 she also became Dutch, as did their son Peter, born a year later.  

Hermann (far right) and Auguste van Pels (far left) with a married couple they’re friends with. Osnabrück, 1930s.
The "Jüdische Pfadfinder Deutschlands" (I.P.D. - Jewish Boy Scouts Germany). Peter van Pels stands in the middle. Osnabrück, 1935 or 1936.

In 1937 the family fled from Osnabrück to Amsterdam and went to live in Stadionweg, a street in the south of the city. A year later they move to the same neighbourhood as the Frank family. Despite their Dutch nationality they don’t feel safe in the Netherlands. In 1939 they apply for a visa at the American consulate in Rotterdam. They are put on a long waiting list. Their attempt to move on fails and in 1942 they go into hiding in the annexe.

Detail of a letter from the American consulate to H. van Pels confirming his application for emigration, 25 April 1939.
Peter van Pels with his Jewish star, taken between 3 May and 13 July 1942.

Fritz Pfeffer

Fritz Pfeffer was divorced and lived with his son Werner in Berlin, where he was a dentist. In 1938 he organized a place for Werner on a transport for children to England, where Jewish children were still being admitted.

Fritz Pfeffer and his son Werner. Contrary to his father, Werner survives the war.

After Crystal Night in November 1938, he fled himself with his Catholic fiancée Charlotte Kaletta to the Netherlands. The Dutch authorities refuse Fritz Pfeffer a residence permit. He has to leave the country as soon as possible.

Charlotte Kaletta and Fritz Pfeffer in 1939. Marrying a non-Jewish woman might possibly have saved Fritz Pfeffer’s life. They couldn’t actually get married because Nazi laws prohibited marriages between German Jews and non-Jews. These laws also affected German Jews abroad.

His alien registration card states that he wants to go to Australia but he tries Aruba too. He also applies to emigrate to Chile and begins a Spanish course. His attempts to escape the Netherlands fail though and in 1942 he goes into hiding in the annexe.

A detail of Fritz Pfeffer’s alien registration card. It states that he lost his nationality in accordance with an order of 25 November 1941. Under 'Children' it says that his son Werner is in London.

The Frank family

When Hitler comes to power in 1933, the Frank family emigrates to the Netherlands. Here too they are concerned about the threat of Nazism. So from 1937 Otto tries to set up a business in England and in 1938 he applies for a visa at the American consulate in Rotterdam.

The Frank family at Merwedeplein in front of their house, 1941.

AFS_A_EFrank_III_002.022.jpgSince September Otto has been away most of the time and is working hard on an English thing (...), we too might move on.

Edith Frank-Holländer, 24 December 1937

Both attempts come to nothing. After the German invasion in 1940 the Frank family make another attempt to go to the United States. American friends and Edith’s brothers, who have already succeeded in fleeing to the States, help them.

This attempt fails too. When the Franks become stateless at the end of 1941 and the United States also becomes involved in the war, there’s nowhere left to go. Six months later they go into hiding in the annexe.

Letter from the National Refugee Service in New York. With the help of family and friends Otto does his utmost to go the USA, via Cuba. Beginning of December 1941 it becomes clear that he will not succeed. The application for Cuban visa has been cancelled.
Passport of Rosa Holländer-Stern, Edith’s mother. With difficulty the Frank family managed to bring her to the Netherlands from Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in 1939. She died on 29 January 1942.

'We too might move on' On Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

The Frank family fled from to Holland in the 1930’s and later tried to find a safe refuge elsewhere. 


How welcome were the Frank family? Article on Jewish refugees in the 1930's

How did the Dutch government react to these newcomers?