Israelis You Should Know: Hannah Szenes | IFCJ
Skip Navigation

Israelis You Should Know: Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes, an Israeli woman who parachuted into Europe during the Holocaust, as well as a poet; photo taken in 1939 (Photo: wikicommons)

Name: Hannah Szenes

Life: July 17, 1921 – November 7, 1944

Known for: Szenes was one of several Jews who parachuted into Yugoslavia during World War II to rescue Hungarian Jews about to be deported to Auschwitz concentration camp.

About her: Hannah Szenes was born in 1921 to a Jewish family in Hungary. During her schooling, she was exposed to anti-Semitism, which prompted her to learn more about her Jewish roots. While in high school, she joined a Zionist youth movement and began learning Hebrew.

In 1939, she immigrated to what was then British Mandate Palestine (now Israel), where she studied at an agricultural school and joined the Sedot Yam kibbutz, where she spent much of her time writing poetry.

Szenes joined the British Army in 1943 after the outbreak of World War II and volunteered to be parachuted into Europe. In March 1944, she parachuted into Yugoslavia with several other Jewish volunteers. They worked to aid the anti-Nazi forces until June, when they planned to enter Hungary and rescue Hungarian Jews from being sent to Auschwitz.

Szenes was arrested at the Hungarian border and imprisoned, but did not reveal any details of her mission. She was eventually tried as a spy and executed.

Her remains were brought to Israel in 1950 and buried in the cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. A film about her life, “Hanna’s War,” was released in 1988, and several biographies have been written about her, including “Hannah Szenes: A Song of Lightin 1998 and “Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary” in 2007.

Szenes’ poetry is widely known throughout Israel today, and a kibbutz and several streets are named after her.

In her own words: “In my life's chain of events nothing was accidental. Everything happened according to an inner need.”

Her most famous poem, "Eli, Eli," written in 1942:

My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
Lightning of the Heavens,
The prayer of Man.

The voice called, and I went.

I went, because the voice called.

Tags: Life in Israel

Previous Post

Next Post

Passover a Sacred Time to Save Lives

Help the Unseen

You can heed the biblical mandate “not to turn away from your own flesh and blood” (Isaiah 58:7) and provide a needy elderly Jew, like Olga, with food, heating fuel, warm clothes, and blankets this winter. Every day is important as the harsh cold winds descend upon the former Soviet Union. Please prayerfully consider giving your best and most generous gift to The Fellowship today for this lifesaving work.

Donate Now
Landscape photo of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock in the foreground.

Visit Israel

Here you’ll find an array of useful information on accommodations, transportation, exchanging currency, Israel's climate and customs, and much more. So get the most out of your trip to Israel with the help of The Fellowship.

Read More

About The Fellowship (IFCJ)

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) funds humanitarian aid to the needy in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, promotes prayer and advocacy on behalf of the Jewish state, and provides resources that help build bridges of understanding between Christians and Jews.

Read More