Hanna Szenes

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Hannah Anikó Szenes

Hebrew: חנה סנש
Also Known As: "Hannah Szenesh Hannah Senesh Chana Senesh"
Birthdate: (23)
Birthplace: Budapest, Magyarország
Death: November 7, 1944 (23)
Budapest, Magyarország (Executed by the Nazi authorities)
Place of Burial: Jerusalem, Israel
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Béla Szenes and Catherine Szenes
Sister of Giora György Szenes

Occupation: Kibbutz memeber, soldier in WWII
Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Hanna Szenes

"Reunion in Budapest", Arthur A. Bardos, Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1992


Refers to Gyuri and Aniko (Hannah) Szenes. Although their last name is not mentioned they are identifiable by the description.

"Aniko was to be infiltrated into Hungary. She was apprehended, tried, and executed as a spy. Gyuri had understandable qualms about visiting his home town, which was also the site of his sister’s martyrdom. On that first afternoon, he did not yet seem certain that he ought to have come."

Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes (July 17, 1921 – November 7, 1944) was a Hungarian Jew, one of 37 Jews who were trained by the British army to parachute into Yugoslavia during the Second World War in order to help save the Jews of Hungary, who were about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.

Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor's sake.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame. - Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes was arrested at the Hungarian border, imprisoned and tortured, but she refused to reveal details of her mission and was eventually tried, and executed by firing squad. She is regarded as a national heroine in Israel, where several streets, a headquarters of the Zionist youth movement Israel Hatzeira and a kibbutz are named after her, and her poetry is widely known.

"Eli Eli." Hannah Szenesh Biography. One of the more poignant songs included in many Holocaust memorial convocations held in Israel, is a short poem, set to music, known popularly as "Eli Eli." The four line poem, actually entitled "Walking to Caesarea," was written by one of the more mythological figures in contemporary Jewish and Israeli history, Hannah Szenes, whose short life and death have propelled her into the pantheon of Zionist history.

Hannah Szenes was born in Budapest on July 17, 1921, to a wealthy, distinguished, and assimilated Hungarian Jewish family. Her father, Bela Szenes (1874-1929), who died when she was a child, had been a well-known writer and dramatist and her mother, Katharine, an elegant homemaker.

Zionist: Having been given a modern Hungarian education, Szenes was exposed to antisemitism during her high school years, propelling her to learn more about her Jewish origins. It was at that time that she discovered the Zionist movement, joining a Zionist youth movement and learning Hebrew in preparation for immigration to Palestine. In 1939, after finishing her high school studies, Szenes came to Palestine to study at the girls agricultural school in Nahalal, continuing the diary that she had begun in Hungary. Having completed a two-year course in agriculture, Szenes joined the Sedot Yam kibbutz at Caesarea. Her choice was motivated by the preference of maintaining an anonymous status, rather than being known as "the daughter of Bela Szenes," something that would have been likely had she joined one of the kibbutz groups whose members were primarily of Hungarian origin. Szenes worked in the kitchen and in the kibbutz laundry, and the difficulties that she encountered are echoed in her diary.

Paratrooper: In 1943 Jewish Agency officials made overtures towards Szenes to join a clandestine military project whose ultimate purpose was to offer aid to beleaguered European Jewry. The young immigrant, who became a member of the Palmah (the pre-State assault companies of the Haganah), first studied in a course for wireless operators, and in January 1944 participated in a course for paratroopers. Before leaving Palestine she met with her brother Giora who had just arrived from Europe- the sole surviving member of her immediate family other than her mother-and the two spent the afternoon together on the shores of the Mediterranean, bringing each other up-to-date with personal and family news.

Yugoslavia Operation 1944: In mid March 1944 she and several other Palestinian-Jewish volunteers (most of whom were also of European origin) were dropped into Yugoslavia in order to aid the anti-Nazi forces until they would be able to commence their true mission and enter Hungary. The Nazi invasion of Hungary in March 1944 postponed their plans, and Szenes only crossed the border to her former motherland in June of that year. Captured within hours of having stepped on to Hungarian soil, she was sent to prison in Budapest where she was tortured by Hungarian authorities in the hope of receiving information regarding Allied wireless codes. Within days of entering Hungary, her two co-parachutists were also captured, unaware of Szenes' whereabouts. Only one of them-Yoel Palgi-was to survive the war.

Mother & Daughter Imprisoned: When the Hungarian authorities realized that Szenes would not be broken, they  arrested her mother and the two women came face to face with each other for the first time in almost five years. Katherine Szenes had no idea that her daughter had left Palestine-not to speak of the fact that she was now in Hungary. Initially shocked as they brought in the young woman with bruised eyes and who had lost a front tooth in the torture process, she rapidly regained her composure, and both mother and daughter refused to give the authorities the performance that would lead to the information they had sought.

For three months the two women were near yet far, sharing the same prison walls but unable to catch more than short glimpses of each other. In September 1944, after Katharine Szenes was suddenly released, she spent most of her waking hours seeking legal assistance for her daughter, who-being a Hungarian national-was to be tried as a spy.

Trial and Execution: In November 1944 Hannah Szenes came up before a tribunal, and with no legal assistance elegantly pleaded her own cause, warning the judges that as the end of the war was nearing, that their own fate would soon hang in the balance. Convicted as a spy, Szenes was sentenced to death, although the court had decided not to carry out the sentence with alacrity. However her poignant speech during the trial was taken as a personal affront by the officer in charge, Colonel Simon, who came into her cell on the morning of November 7th and presented her with two choices: to beg for a pardon, or to face death by a firing squad. Refusing to beg clemency from her captors, whom she did not consider legally permitted to try her case, Szenes penned short notes to her mother and her comrades and went to her death at age twenty-three in a snow-covered Budapest courtyard, refusing a blindfold in order to face her murderers in the moments before her death. Her body was buried by unknown persons in the Jewish graveyard at Budapest.

Living Legend

Katharine Szenes who escaped from the infamous Budapest "Death March," hid in that city until its liberation by the Soviet forces in January 1945. Having immigrated to Palestine where she joined her surviving child, Giora, she became an instrumental part of the Hannah Szenes legend, based on her daughter's courageous life and death, brought to public knowledge by fifteen editions of her daughters diary, poetry, and plays, that have since been published in Hebrew. In 1950 Hannah Szenes' remains were brought to Israel where they were buried in the "Parachutists' section" in the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. In the same year a kibbutz was founded and called Yad Hannah in her memory.

Sources of information: Judith Tydor Baumel, Szenes Hannah in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. (CD ROM)

A monologue describing the life of Hannah Szenes

איך ליצור ולהרוס גיבורה לאומית - אלי אשד

Commonwealth cemeteries

אתר יזכור

About Hanna Szenes (עברית)

,אַשְׁרֵי הַגַּפְרוּר שֶׁנִּשְׂרַף וְהִצִּית לֶהָבוֹת

.אַשְׁרֵי הַלְּהָבָה שֶׁבָּעֲרָה בְּסִתְרֵי לְבָבוֹת

...אַשְׁרֵי הַלְבָבוֹת שֶׁיָדְעוּ לַחְדוֹל בְּכָבוֹד

.אַשְׁרֵי הַגַּפְרוּר שֶׁנִּשְׂרַף וְהִצִּית לֶהָבוֹת

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Hanna Szenes's Timeline

July 17, 1921
Budapest, Magyarország
November 7, 1944
Age 23
Budapest, Magyarország
Age 22
Jerusalem, Israel