Through her brief but noteworthy life, Hannah Szenes became a symbol of idealism and self-sacrifice. Her poems, made famous in part because of her unfortunate death, reveal a woman imbued with hope, even in the face of adverse circumstances.
Szenes, the daughter of an author and journalist, was born in Budapest. She demonstrated her own literary talent from an early age, and she kept a diary from age 13 until shortly before her death. Although her family was assimilated, anti-Semitic sentiment in Budapest led her to involvement in Zionist activities, and she left Hungary for Eretz Yisrael in 1939. She studied first at an agricultural school, and then settled at Kibbutz Sdot Yam. While there she wrote poetry, as well as a play about kibbutz life.
In 1943 Szenes joined the British Army and volunteered to be parachuted into Europe. The purpose of this operation was to help the Allied efforts in Europe and establish contact with partisan resistance fighters in an attempt to aid beleaguered Jewish communities. Szenes trained in Egypt and was one of the thirty-three chosen to parachute behind enemy lines. With the goal of reaching her native Budapest, Szenes was parachuted in March, 1944 into Yugoslavia, and spent three months with Tito’s partisans. Her idealism and commitment to her cause are memorialized in her poem “Blessed is the Match,” which she wrote at this time.
On June 7, 1944, at the height of the deportation of Hungarian Jews, Szenes crossed the border into Hungary. She was caught almost immediately by the Hungarian police, and although tortured cruelly and repeatedly over the next several months, refused to divulge any information. Even the knowledge that her mother was at risk and that she too might be harmed did not move Szenes to cooperate with the police. At her trial in October of that year, Szenes staunchly defended her activities and she refused to request clemency. Throughout her ordeal she remained steadfast in her courage, and when she was executed by a firing squad on November 7, she refused the blindfold, staring squarely at her executors and her fate.
In 1950, Szenes’ remains were brought to Israel and re-interred in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl. Her diary and literary works were later published, and many of her more popular poems, including “Towards Caesarea” and “Blessed is the Match,” have been set to music. She has also been the subject of several artistic works, including a play by Aharon Megged.
Source: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997-2007, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente
I enjoy reading good books and a friend recently told me he was reading the biography of Hannah Szenes. As he explained Hannah's background, I became fascinated and searched for her book on line. Found a few copies available on Amazon.com and here are two links:
for the best priced book: http://www.amazon.com/Kindling-Flame-Hannah-Senesh-1921-1944/dp/0688116892/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1323722106&sr=8-5
Amir Benayoun is singing "Eli Eli" - a poem by Hannah Szenes, set to music
after her death.
O Lord, My G-d,
I pray that these things never end.
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the Water,
The crash of the heavens,
The prayer of woman and man.
Free: The rare documentary/full movie of Hannah: Blessed is the Match. It will have a few commercials, like watching TV; but well worth it to see this movie.