On this Day: December 1938

On This Day in History Promo

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust's educational series On This Day in History provides summaries of historical events as the anniversaries fall on the current calendar. Be sure to follow along on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates and further information like photos, maps, and videos.

Georgia Commission on the Holocaust  Facebook Twitter

Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945  Facebook Twitter

December 2

The first Kindertransport arrives in Harwich, Great Britain. It brings some 200 children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin which had been destroyed on November 9-10, in the Kristallnacht pogrom. 

Fritz Pfeffer, a future inhabitant of the Secret Annex, sends his son, Werner, on a Kindertransport to England sometime after Kristallnacht. Werner is only 11 years-old.  He has been living with his father since his parents' divorce in 1933. Fritz's brother, who lives in England, will look after the boy. 

December 3

The German government issues the Decree on the Utilization of Jewish Property which mandates the “aryanization” of all Jewish businesses. German authorities force Jews to sell immovable property, businesses, and stocks to non-Jews, usually at prices far below market value.

December 8 

Heinrich Himmler, Commander of the SS and Chief of German Police, issues the Decree for "Combating the Gypsy Plague" which defines "Gypsies' as an inferior race. The German Criminal Police is tasked with establishing a nationwide database and identifying all Gypsies residing on the territory of the so-called Greater German Reich. Dr. Robert Ritter's Research Institute for Racial Hygiene and Population Biology is proclaimed as the "expert" authority to determine membership in the "Gypsy race."

“Gypsies” is a common collective term referring to an ethnic minority whose members, in reality, belong to distinctive tribes. Most of the "Gypsies" in German-occupied Europe belonged to the Sinti and Roma tribes. The Sinti generally predominated in Germany and western Europe, and the Roma in Austria, eastern Europe, and the Balkans. 

December 9

Fritz Pfeffer arrives in the Netherlands by train from Germany with his Catholic fiancé, Charlotte Kaletta. (They are forbidden to marry in Germany according to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.)

Fritz's registration card states that he is a refugee, his occupation is dentist, and that he wants to go to Australia. The Register of Foreigners does not permit him to stay permanently in the Netherlands.

It is still two years before the Nazi German occupation of the Netherlands. For now, Fritz can establish a dental practice in the Rivierenbuurt neighborhood of Amsterdam. Fritz will meet fellow German Jewish refugees - the Frank and Van Pels families. Miep Gies, Otto Frank's secretary, will become one of Fritz's patients. She will also act as courier between Fritz and Charlotte while he is hiding in the Secret Annex from November 1942 until August 1944.  

Once a week I would meet Charlotte Kaletta, a charming blonde woman one year older than I. She would give me letters, books, parcels and bits of dental equipment that Fritz Pfeffer had requested. She was not Jewish, and because she no longer had a Jew with her she was in no danger. I told Charlotte that I had to turn over the things she gave me to someone else, who was the one who delivered them to Fritz. I pretended to know nothing about where her fiancé was hiding. However, Charlotte was a discreet and sensitive person; she knew better than to search out information. She never asked anything of me. We exchanged letters and parcels until the next week when we would repeat the process.
- Miep Gies

Sources and Related Links

1938: Key Dates

Kindertransport, 1939-1940

Fritz Pfeffer

Miep Gies

Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family

Persecution of Roma (Gypsies) in Prewar Germany, 1933-1939

Sinti and Roma: Victims of the Nazi Era

Who were the "Gypsies"?

Genocide of European Roma (Gypsies), 1939-1945

Himmler’s Circular of December 8, 1938: “Combating the Gypsy Nuisance”

Dr. Robert Ritter: Racial Science and “Gypsies”

Nazi Racism