Hannah Senesh (Szenes) was born in Budapest, Hungary, to an assimilated,
middle-class family. An avid diarist from the age of 13 until her
death, Hannah maintained a personal journal that reflected the literary
talent she had inherited from her father, Bela, a playwright who died
when she was six.

While the Senesh family were not active participants in Jewish
religious life, both Hannah and her brother George were ardent Zionists.
In 1939, at age 18, Hannah gave up her dream of a university education,
went to Palestine (now called Israel) and enrolled in an agricultural
school. She later joined Kibbutz S’dot Yam (Fields of the Sea) in Caesarea.

Back in Hungary, the entire Jewish community (including Hannah’s mother)
was suffering terribly due to local anti-Semitism. Although the Germans
did not officially occupy Hungary until 1944, the Hungarian government
allied itself with the Axis powers. Worried about her mother and anxious
to do something to stop the Nazis, Hannah joined the British Army,
volunteering to be parachuted across enemy lines as a spy.

In June 1944, Hannah parachuted into Yugoslavia and, together with a
band of underground Jewish partisans, crossed the border into Hungary.
Unfortunately, they were quickly captured. The radio transmitter in
their possession was evidence enough to have them imprisoned.

The Nazis held Hannah in prison for nearly five months, during which
time she was able to communicate with her mother. She was tortured,
repeatedly, but refused to give the Nazis any information. On November
7, 1944, corresponding to the 20th of Cheshvan, the 23 year-old Hannah was executed by firing squad. She
refused to be blind-folded.

Hannah’s diaries and poems, which she sent to her mother, were later
published. Several of her poems became popular Hebrew songs. The courage
displayed by this young woman has been an inspiration to many
generations of young people.

One of her most famous poems:
My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
Lightning of the Heavens,
The prayer of Man. 

This Treat was last posted on April 21, 2011.

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