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Home > January 2017 > Hannah Senesh. . . Poet, Playwright, Paratrooper, and Martyr

Hannah Senesh. . . Poet, Playwright, Paratrooper, and Martyr
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

She was offered a blindfold, but refused it and looked straight ahead at the firing squad as they were given the order to fire.  

Hannah Senesh was a Hungarian young lady who had emigrated to Israel (called the British Mandate of Palestine" at the time) in 1939.  She was born and raised in Hungary, a land of musicians, artists, and poets.  But by the late 1930's it was also being filled with the hateful anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Hungarian fascists.  So at the age of 18 she left the only country she had ever known to go live with other Jews who shared her vision for a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Hannah lived on a kibbutz (communal farm) and studied in the local agricultural college. She was a student, but also an ardent Zionist and joined the Hagana (Jewish militia that later became the Israeli Defense Force).  In 1943 she volunteered for the British Royal Air Force to become a paratrooper/spy.  The goal was for the Brits to drop these people deep behind German lines and help partisans fight the Nazis and also help Jews escape from being sent to the death camps.  

After training in Egypt, the British dropped Hannah and 36 others in various countries (northern Italy, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, France, and Yugoslavia).  She and her fellow paratroopers landed in Yugoslavia in April of 1944.  She stayed with partisan groups for three months.  Sadly they discovered that the original mission, that of going into her native Hungary, had to be scrapped since the Germans had invaded the country.  However, she pressed on to see what she could do to help her people.

She was almost immediately captured at the border by Hungarian police at the borde r.  Hannah Senesh was imprisoned, stripped, and cruelly beaten with a whip.  All she ever gave the fascists was her name.  Even after savage beatings, she never once betrayed her fellow spies or the nature of their missions.

On November 7, 1944, Hannah Senesh was led to a firing squad and shot.  She was 23.

It turns out that ever since she was 13 she had kept a diary.  Her diary, numerous poems and plays (even some poetry she had written while in prison) was recovered after the war.  One poem, "A Walk to Caesarea" (commonly known as "Eli, Eli") was put to music and you can hear it at the end of some versions of "Schindler's List."

Her remains were taken from Hungary after the war, and today she is revered as a martyr of Israel and buried on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.

Sunday, January 29, 2017, 06:52 PM

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