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Hannah Szenes was a Jewish parachutist from Palestine who was executed by a Nazi firing squad for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust

Marija Georgievska

Hannah Szenes was a Special Operations Executive trained to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. She was one of 37 Jewish parachutists from the Mandate Palestine dropped by the British Army during the Second World War to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews who were about to be deported to Auschwitz.

Hannah Szenes.

Hannah Szenes.

She was born in Budapest on July 17, 1921, to a wealthy Hungarian Jewish family. Her father, Bela Szenes, was a well-known writer and journalist. She joined the Zionist movement and learned Hebrew when she was preparing herself for immigration to Palestine. She studied first at an agricultural school and then settled at Kibbutz Yam. While there she wrote poetry, as well as a play about kibbutz life.

Hannah as a child.

Hannah as a child.

In 1943, Hanna enlisted in the British Army in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Forces an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class and began her training in Egypt as a paratrooper for the British Special Operations Executive.

Hannah Szenes memorial in Israel.

Hannah Szenes memorial in Israel.

After crossing the Hungarian border (which was at the time occupied by the Germans) with her colleagues Yoel Palgi and Peretz Goldstein, she was arrested by Hungarian gendarmes, They found the British military transmitter she was carrying, which was used to communicate with the SEO and other partisans.

In 1944, she spent three monts with Tito's partisans, hoping that with their help she would be able to cross into Hungary.

In 1944, she spent three months with Tito’s partisans, hoping that with their help she would be able to cross into Hungary.

She was tortured cruelly and repeatedly over the next several months. In October 1944, at her trial, Szenes staunchly defended her activities and she refused to request clemency. She was executed on November 7 by a firing squad, she refused the blindfold, staring squarely at her executors and her fate. At the time of the execution, Szenes was 23 years old.

She was executed at 23 years.

She was executed at 23 years.

 

Her diary and poems were later published, and many of her more popular poems have been set to music.

Her diary and poems were later published, and many of her more popular poems have been set to music.

The remains of Hannah Szenes were brought to Israel in 1950. She was buried in the Israel National Military Cemetery on Mount Herzi in Jerusalem.

A film about Szenes' life entitled Hanna's War was released in 1988 and directed by Menahem Golan.

A film about Szenes’ life entitled Hanna’s War was released in 1988 and directed by Menahem Golan.

Hannah was also known as an exceptional poet. Her diary and her poems were published in Hebrew in 1945. She is a national heroine in Israel.