A Dentist That Hid During The War
Most people have read the diary of Anne Frank, either in school or on their own. They remember the story of the people who hid from the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and who were later betrayed and discovered. Readers will also remember how young Anne struggled with dislike for a Fritz Pfeffer who hid with the family. Friedrich (Fritz) Pfeffer was a Jewish dentist.
Pfeffer was born in Germany, and had served in the German army during World War 1. The later rise of the Nazis, however, caused him to send his son to England. The son eventually emigrated to America and changed his last name to Pepper, becoming a successful businessman in California. Pfeffer left Berlin and moved to Amsterdam in 1938, following the coordinated attacks on the Jews known as Kristallnacht. In Amsterdam, he set up a dental practice which caused him to become friends with the Frank family. Miep Gies, who later became instrumental in hiding Pfeffer and the Frank family, became a patient of his, and a regular dental client.
The Germans invaded the Netherlands, and Pfeffer came to the conclusion that it was time to go into hiding. He went to Miep Gies for help in finding a place to hide, and she helped arrange it so that he could hide in the Frank’s office building with the family. He was the only medically trained person in the group, a definite benefit since they could not consult doctors.
In Anne Frank’s diary, she described her difficulty in sharing a room and getting along with Pfeffer. Following the publication of Anne’s diary, Pfeffer’s family and friends worked hard to portray him in a positive light rather than the rather negative descriptions that came from the young Anne Frank’s descriptions of him. Later stage and theater productions perpetuated an image of Pfeffer as a distasteful or easily mocked person, though Otto Frank tried to make things better by stating that Anne was a young girl who was struggling to deal with a difficult situation and that that affected her description of him.
Eventually, they were all discovered and Pfeffer died on December 20, 1944 in a concentration camp.
The familiar, yet always horrific, story of the concentration camps and those who struggled to live through this dark period is made more poignant and real when we consider each person had a story. For Pfeffer, part of it was being Jewish, and part of it was being a dentist. It was Pfeffer’s dental practice that helped connect him to the people who were very nearly successful in hiding from the Nazis.