Pfau was born on 9 September 1929
 She had four sisters and one brother. Her home was destroyed by bombing during
World War II.
 Following the post-war
Soviet occupation of
East Germany she escaped to
West Germany along with her family, and chose medicine as her future career.
 During the 1950s, she studied medicine at the
University of Mainz.
 During this time, Pfau met several times with a Dutch Christian woman, who was a
concentration camp survivor and currently dedicated her life to "preaching love and forgiveness". After "her life-changing experience", Pfau left "a romantic association" with a fellow student, got involved in discussions in the Mainz's philosophy and classical literature department,
 and she was baptized as an
Evangelical Protestant—before her conversion to
 After completing her clinical examination, Dr Pfau moved to
Marburg. There she carried on with her clinical studies, joined a Catholic parish, and she was greatly influenced by
The Lord in this period.
 she joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a
Catholic order, in
 She said, "When you receive such a calling, you cannot turn it down, for it is not you who has made the choice. ... God has chosen you for himself."
 The order later sent her to southern
India; however, in 1960,
 a visa issue meant she became stuck in
 She travelled to various parts of Pakistan
 and across the border to Afghanistan
 to rescue patients who were abandoned by their families or locked in small rooms for a lifetime.