Fritz Pfeffer

In November 1942, Fritz Pfeffer joined the Frank and Van Pels families, bringing the number of people in hiding up to eight. He was a lone wolf between two families, with the adolescent Anne for a roommate. Who was Anne’s roommate?

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Fritz Pfeffer had a flourishing dental practice in Berlin. He was divorced and lived there with his son, Werner (6 years old). Fritz was a strict father, who valued discipline. He observed the Jewish holidays and adhered to the religious precepts. 

After his divorce, Fritz became involved with Charlotte Kaletta, who was a Catholic. Charlotte recounted: ‘We lived in Berlin. My husband was Jewish; I am a Catholic. We would speak about the matter when speaking made us feel better, and we would say nothing about it when silence made us feel better.'

Escape to Amsterdam

After the Kristallnacht, Fritz and Charlotte decided to flee Nazi Germany and go to the Netherlands. Fritz succeeded in putting his son Werner on a boat to England with a 'Kindertransport'. His brother Ernst took care of the child there.

In 1940, Fritz got to know Otto Frank in Amsterdam and became part of the circle of friends and acquaintances - including Mr and Mrs Van Pels and Jan and Miep Gies - who visited the Frank family on Saturday afternoons.

The eighth resident of the Secret Annex

As the raids increased and more and more Jews were arrested, Fritz wanted to go into hiding as well. He asked Miep Gies if she happened to know of a place. Together, the helpers and the people hiding in the Secret Annex decided that they had room for one more. ‘.Great news, an 8th person is going to hide with us!!..,' Anne wrote in her diary on 10 November 1942. 

Fritz Pfeffer went from one surprise to the next when he arrived at Prinsengracht 263 a week later. First when he realised that the Secret Annex was hidden within the company and then upon meeting the Frank and Van Pels families there. He had assumed that the Frank family had escaped to Switzerland.

‘He does spend a quarter of an hour (…) rocking from his toes to his heels.’

Arguments and friction

Fritz moved in with Anne, and Margot moved to her parents' room. Fritz noticed that there were frictions between the families in the Secret Annex and, according to Anne, tried to mediate between the quarrelling parties, but soon gave up.

It was not easy to share the room. In her diary Anne described how Fritz would say his prayers on Sundays: ‘he does spend a quarter of an hour - an entire fifteen minutes - rocking from his toes to his heels. Back and forth, back and forth. It goes on forever, and if I don’t shut my eyes tight, my head starts to spin.’ 

Before long, Anne was terribly annoyed by Fritz. He often commented on her behaviour and passed everything on to her mother. Fritz, on the other hand, will frequently have been annoyed by Anne, too. 

Dreaming of South America

Thanks to Miep Gies, Fritz and Charlotte were able to stay in touch. Miep regularly took parcels and letters from Fritz to Charlotte and vice versa. During the war, Charlotte lived in Amsterdam and had no idea that Fritz’s hiding place was not far from where she lived.  

Fritz spent a lot of time on his letters to Charlotte, which unfortunately have not been saved. In addition, he focused on learning the Spanish language. He dreamt of building a new life with Charlotte in South America after the war. 

‘What is this fellow doing lying on my heart? He’s not my sweetheart, is he?’

Dentist and doctor in the Secret Annex

The people in hiding were lucky to have a dentist in the house. Fritz had brought his bag with instruments and a dentist's drill to the Secret Annex. He treated Anne in June 1944. ‘I am having some really horrible nerve-treatment and in one of my front tooth too, it's been hurting me dreadfully and was so bad that Pf. thought I was going to faint.’

As Fritz has also studied medicine, he examined Anne when she had the flu. Anne was less than enthusiastic, to put it mildly. ‘The worst moment of all was certainly when Mr. Pf. thought he'd play doctor, and came and lay on my naked chest with his greasy head, in order to listen to the sounds within. (...) What is this fellow doing lying on my heart? He’s not my sweetheart, is he?’

Hard labour in the Neuengamme concentration camp

After the arrest of the people hiding in the Secret Annex, Fritz Pfeffer and the others were sent to the Westerbork transit camp and on to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.

On the Auschwitz-Birkenau platform, Nazi doctors placed Fritz with the prisoners who had to do hard labour. Presumably, Fritz had to build roads outside the camp together with other prisoners. At the beginning of November 1944, he had to leave Auschwitz. 

It is unclear how and when Fritz Pfeffer ended up in the Neuengamme concentration camp. It is, however, certain that the prisoners in Neuengamme had to do hard labour under appalling conditions.

According to the camp records, Fritz Pfeffer died on 20 December 1944; the cause of death listed was 'enterocolitis', a gastrointestinal infection.

  1. Schnabel, Ernst, The footsteps of Anne Frank (London etc.: Longmans, Green and Co, 1959), p. 42.
  2. Frank, Anne, "Sundays," short story, 20 February 1944. In: Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex (London: Halban, 2010), p. 45.
  3. Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation [NIOD], The Diary of Anne Frank: the revised critical edition (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2003), A-version, 30 June 1944.
  4. NIOD, The Diary of Anne Frank, B-version, 22 December 1943.