Thomas' father, Heinz, was a German-Jewish refugee who had married Henriette De Leeuw, a Dutch-Jewish woman. Frightened by the Nazi dictatorship and the murder of Heinz's uncle in a concentration camp, they emigrated to the Netherlands when Henriette was nine months pregnant with Thomas' older brother. They settled in Amsterdam.
1933-39: Thomas, also known as Tommy, was born 18 months after his older brother, Jan-Peter. In 1939 the parents and brother of Tommy's father joined them in the Netherlands as refugees from Germany. Tommy and Jan-Peter grew up speaking Dutch as their native language, and they often spent time at their mother's family home in the country.
1940-44: The Germans occupied Amsterdam in May 1940. Despite the German occupation, 4-year-old Tommy did not feel much change in his day-to-day life. When he was 6 the Germans sent his grandmother to a camp called Westerbork. Six months later, Tommy and his family were sent to the same camp, where Tommy celebrated his seventh birthday. That winter the Pfeffers were sent to a faraway ghetto called Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, where Tommy felt cold, scared and hungry.
On May 18, 1944, Tommy was deported with his family to Auschwitz. He was gassed on July 11, 1944. Tommy was 7 years old.