Life: August 10, 1896 – May 17, 1944
Why you should know her: Milena Jesenská was a Czech writer, journalist, and member of the resistance against the Nazis.
Born in Prague, Milena was a member of the city’s literary circles before moving to Vienna.
In 1919, Milena was working as a translator when she first met the renowned writer Franz Kafka. Translating Kafka’s work, she also began a correspondence with him that lasted until his death in 1924.
When World War II began and the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, Milena turned her attentions from literature to the resistance. As Czech Jews began to flee for their lives, Milena’s home became a way station for them. There, she provided them food, shelter, and the false papers that would allow them to escape certain death.
Milena, however, would not escape. Believing that she was in less danger than the Jews she helped, Milena did not flee. On November 11, 1939, the Nazis arrested her. Detained in several Nazi prisons, Milena finally ended up in Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she died on May 17, 1944, only three weeks before D-Day. But because of her selfless actions that saved the lives of countless Jews, Milena Jesenská was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1994.Tags: Advocacy IFCJ IFCJ in the News Inspiration Partnerships and People Stories