Even in Holland, they were barred by law from marrying -- the Dutch law, like the Nazi law, forbade "mixed" marriages. They contemplated going to Belgium, but as a mixed married couple would not be allowed to return to Holland. At one point, Dr. Pfeffer and Kaletta discussed moving to South America or Chile, but were thwarted by anti-Jewish immigration laws.
As Germany enacted its Nuremberg Laws, originally designed to force German Jews out of Germany, virtually every nation enacted anti-Semitic immigration laws barring or limiting the number of Jews who were allowed to immigrate into their respective countries -- essentially closing their doors to German Jews desperate to escape the Nazis. Every Latin American nation, including Chile, put up immigration barriers against the Jews. Mexico, for example, allowed only 100 Jews per year to enter the country.
Contrary to Anne's depiction of Dr. Pfeffer, van der Zee's research uncovered an active, athletic man who was a member of East Berlin's Undine Jewish rowing club. A man with a "beautiful voice," which he used to lead friends and family during Jewish holiday celebrations. He was an accomplished horseman -- riding every week in Berlin -- and a loving, doting father to his son. An active outdoorsman, he enjoyed hiking in Germany's forests and mountains. He was an inquisitive traveler, soaking up the cultures of Italy, Greece, and England, which he visited. Many of the old photos depicted Dr. Pfeffer and Kaletta at various holiday destinations enjoying themselves.
When Germany overran Holland in May of 1940, the Nuremberg Laws were immediately adopted. As the Nazis tightened their grip on the Jews, Otto Frank had the foresight to begin preparation to hide his family in the unused upstairs annex and attic of his office building. They went into hiding in July 1942. Dr. Pfeffer joined them in November when Miep Gies, an employee of Otto, asked that he be included. Dr. Pfeffer was Gies' dentist. Gies would be one of the four "helpers" providing outside news and supplies during their confinement. She exchanged weekly letters between Dr. Pfeffer and Kaletta.
Anne had to share her bedroom with Dr. Pfeffer, which likely led to her animosity. John Blair, the producer of the 1995 Academy Award-winning documentary Remembering Anne Frank wrote about these love letters: "For this lonely man, shorn of his own family while ... sharing a bedroom with a difficult adolescent girl, this contact that Miep gave him with the outside world and with someone whom he loved and loved him, must have provided unimaginable support."
These love letters were immediately destroyed after being read -- for fear of what would happen if they fell into the hands of the Nazis. Besides the letters, Kaletta provided Dr. Pfeffer with money, toiletries, books, and his dental instruments, which he used to provide dental care to his seven fellow annex inhabitants.
On August 4, 1944, they were betrayed, arrested, and deported to concentration camps. Dr. Pfeffer was imprisoned at the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. He passed away on December
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26, nineteen years younger than the dentist. She was divorced and also had a son, Gustaf, who was in the custody of his father -- also a Jewish dentist. Dr. Pfeffer and Kaletta fell in love but were unable to marry due to the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws.
Adolf Hitler summed up the irrational Nazi hatred toward the Jews: "It is true that Jews are a race, but they are not human beings!" These laws forbade Jews from owning a bicycle, driving cars, or using public transportation. They could not attend theatres or cinemas or any other place of entertainment. Jews were barred from all public sporting facilities -- for example, public swimming pools, beaches, parks, or tennis courts. Jews could only shop between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and then only in "Jewish shops." Professionals -- doctors, lawyers, and dentists -- could only serve their fellow Jews. A curfew required all Jews to be off the streets by 8 p.m. Jews were forbidden to sit in their own garden or that of any friend after 8 p.m. and were required to wear a large yellow Star of David to identify themselves.
Dr. Pfeffer and Kaletta violated German law by living together -- he a Jew and she Aryan. In the era parlance, their cohabitation was considered a "racial disgrace." When Dr. Pfeffer was barred from practicing dentistry, he surreptitiously worked with a dental firm "where he moonlighted," according to van der Zee.
In November 1939, the couple fled to Holland, which was still a neutral country. Anne's father, Otto Frank, moved his family from Frankfurt, Germany, to Amsterdam in 1933 -- the year the Nazis took control of Germany. At the time of the move, Anne was 4 years old. In Amsterdam, the Franks, Dr. Pfeffer, and Kaletta became social acquaintances.
2 portraits of Dr. Fritz Pfeffer, Anne Frank's roommate
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Contrary to Anne Frank's depiction of Pfeffer, research uncovered an active, athletic man who was a member of East Berlin's Undine Jewish rowing club.