Szenes, Hannah

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SZENES, HANNAH (1921–1944), poet and *Haganah fighter who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe. Hannah was born in Budapest of an assimilated family, daughter of the writer Béla *Szenes. She early revealed a remarkable intellect and literary talent; at 13 she began to write a diary, which she kept up until 1944. Under the impact of the antisemitic atmosphere in Budapest she became an ardent Zionist, and in September 1939 she went to Palestine and began her studies at the Nahalal agricultural school. Two years later she joined kibbutz Sedot Yam, where she wrote some of her most poignant poems (e.g., Toward Caesarea). At the end of 1942, deeply concerned with the fate of European Jewry and of her mother in Budapest, she joined the group of parachutists organized by the Haganah to rescue Allied prisoners of war and organize Jewish resistance. In March 1944 she was parachuted over Yugoslavia, where she stayed among Tito's partisans. In Srdice she wrote the poem Ashrei ha-Gafrur (Blessed is the Match). On June 7, at the peak of the deportation of Hungarian Jewry (see *Hungary, Holocaust) she crossed the border into Hungary but was arrested by the Hungarian police. Though cruelly tortured, she did not reveal any information, and after the fascist takeover in Hungary, a secret court hastily condemned her to death. On November 7, 1944 she was executed by a firing squad in a Budapest prison courtyard. Her remains were taken to Israel in 1950 and interred on Mt. Herzl. In Israel and in the Zionist movement her name became a symbol of devotion and self-sacrifice. Various books were written about her as well as a play by Aharon *Megged. Her diary was published in 1971 (in English).


M. Syrkin, Blessed is the Match (1948); D. and P. Bar-Adon, Seven who Fell (1947), 81–124; N. Braslavski (ed.), Hannah Szenes, Ḥayyeha, Sheliḥutah u-Motah (196610); Y. Palgi, Ru'aḥ Gedolah Ba'ah (1956), passim; Y. Lewy (ed.), Das Leben von Chana Szenes 19211944 nach ihren Tagebuechern (1960); O. Besser, Ha-Ẓanḥanit she-Lo Shavah (1969).

[Livia Rothkirchen]