July 17, 1921 – November 7, 1944
Born to a Jewish family in Hungary, Hannah Szenes’ father died when she was only six. The girl attended a Christian school, where she was considered a “Gifted Student.” As Hannah grew older, the situation in Europe for Jews grew precarious, and the girl embraced Zionism.
When Hannah graduated in 1939, she made aliyah (immigrated) to what was then still British-mandate Palestine, joining both a kibbutz, as well as the Haganah, which would later become the IDF. Later enlisting in the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in order to fight the Nazis back in Europe, Hannah was sent to Egypt for paratrooper training.
This training came in handy when Hannah and two others parachuted into Yugoslavia, where they joined a partisan resistance group and fought the Nazis. The two men accompanying her called off the mission, feeling it was too dangerous, but Hannah continued on to the Hungarian border.
At the border, Hannah was arrested by Hungarian Nazi sympathizers, who found her British military transmitter. She was put in prison, where she was beaten and tortured. Despite brutal interrogations, and the threat that her mother would be killed, Hannah refused to cooperate.
While jailed, Hannah flashed signals with a mirror to other prisoners and sent messages to those outside the prison. In October 1944, Hannah was tried for treason, and was executed on November 7.
Hannah had always been a poet and a writer, so she kept a diary in prison, which was published after the war was over. Her remains were brought to her biblical and historic homeland, Israel, in 1950, where she was buried at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl.
One of Hannah’s poems, “A Walk to Caesarea,” was turned into a song which was used in some versions of the Holocaust film Schindler’s List:
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.
But perhaps the most touching of Hannah’s poems, in light of her own answering the call to help her people, begins:
Tags: Hannah Szenes History Israelis You Should Know World War II
A voice called, and I went.
I went, for a voice called.