[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]

Hannah Szenes: Rescuer

By Marian England
Cold Spring Harbor High School
New York

Hannah Szenes was born into a Budapest Jewish family in 1921. Hannah was a Palestinian Jew. As Hannah grew up, she displayed remarkable talent for composing poems, first in Hungarian and then later in her life in Hebrew, when she became an ardent Zionist. A Song of Light tells Hannah Szenes' story and allows you to meet a remarkable young woman. Through the age of six, Hannah Szenes was determined "to make a difference in the world."

In 1939, at the age of nineteen, Hannah immigrated to Palestine and where two years later she joined Kibbutz Sedot Yam near Caesarea. In 1943, she volunteered to parachute into Nazi-occupied Europe to aid Jews under Nazi oppression and underwent training in Egypt. Altogether, there were 250 men and women who volunteered to parachute. One-hundred-and-ten of them underwent training; only thirty-two were actually dropped, and five infiltrated into target countries. Of those, thirty-seven people, twelve were captured and seven were executed by Germans.

In March of 1944, about one week before the German occupation of Hungary, Szenes dropped into Yugoslavia, together with fellow parachutists from Palestine. There, Hannah spent three months with Tito's partisans, hoping that with their help she would be able to get into Hungary.

In the beginning of June 1944, Hannah was one of the five people who went into target country. Hannah crossed the border into Hungary. In Hungary she was immediately captured with a transmitter radio in her possession. Hannah was taken to Szombathely, put into prison, and tortured. But no torture, not even the threat of her mother's life was torture enough for Hannah to give up the code of the transmitter. After five months in jail, Hannah was convicted of treason against Hungary and on 7 November 1944 was executed by a firing squad. Hannah Szenes was one of the seven people who were executed by Germans.

Hannah Szenes' remains were brought to Israel and placed on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. A village, Yad Hannah, commemorates her name today. This woman has become a symbol of courage and moral strength for all women and men alike. Hannah Szenes' personal sacrifice would be a symbol of inspiration to the Jews of Europe even if she and her comrades had not succeeded.

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