Anne Frank’s Friends: The Girls Who Lived

A young girl, wise and compassionate beyond her years, and her family go into hiding in Amsterdam during the Second World War, desperate to evade the Nazis who occupy their adopted country; the girl and those in hiding with her are eventually betrayed (by a person or persons still, to this day, unknown) and are sent to concentration camps; most of her former companions die — or rather, are murdered by Nazis and their willing proxies — along with millions of other Jews and “undesirables” in the coming years; Anne Frank herself is only 15 years old when she dies at Bergen-Belsen in March 1945 — one month before Allied troops liberate the camp.

These and other wrenching elements of Anne’s tale, imparted in the clear, unsentimental prose of her famous diary, are now integral markers in the shared memory of cultures the world over.

Here, on the anniversary of the July day in 1942 when the Frank family went into hiding, LIFE commemorates Anne’s unconquerable spirit — and bears witness to the suffering unleashed by the Third Reich — through the story of one seemingly incongruous photograph: a picture of children playing in a sandbox in Amsterdam in 1937.

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