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Monday, November 07, 2005

Heroine of the Day

This article in today's Haaretz made me decide to bring back my Heroine of the Day series, which had become quite popular before work and family demands made me drop the feature in favor of less time-intensive blogging.

Hannah Szenes was on the short list of heroines that I was planning to post about, and today seems a perfect day to do so. From the article:
Hungary's Holocaust Museum on Monday organized a tribute to Hannah Szenes, a young woman executed for trying to organize Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.

Hungarian-born Szenes emigrated to Palestine in 1939 and was part of a group of young Jews sent to Europe in 1944 to try to save Jews.

In March 1944, Szenes parachuted into Yugoslavia but was caught soon after crossing the border into southern Hungary.

Tried for treason, she was executed by a firing squad in a Budapest prison yard on Nov. 7, 1944.
Szenes was born and raised in Hungary. She attended a Protestant parochial school that was open to Jews, and did very well there, even being elected to the school's literary society. However, she refused to take office in what she felt was anti-Semitic environment. Instead, she joined the Hungarian chapter of Maccabiah, a Zionist organization.

She became an ardent Zionist, and decided upon graduation to move to Palestine to study in an agricultural school. She joined a Kibbutz, and soon after, she joined the Haganah movement, the Jewish paramiltary defense organization. She then enlisted in the British army, and was recruited to join a small group of volunteers being trained to parachute into Hungary to help partisans there who were fighting against the Nazi occupation.

She was sent to make her way to Hungary with was a select group of 33, out of a larger group of 110 trainees. After parachuting into Yugoslavia, she spent three months there with partisan groups. She then crossed the border into Hungary at the height of the Jews' deportation. She was caught almost immediately, and put in prison under sucpicion of treason. She endured months of cruel torture, including threats on her family members' lives, and yet steadfastly refused to give up any information about her operation. She died as she lived - a heroine, protecting the lives of her fellow fighters by refusing to give up the code for the radio she was carrying when captured.

Throughout her life, Szenes kept journals of her writings. Her poems have been published and some set to music. Many have become famous both due to the talent of the writer, and the tremendous courage she showed in her life and her death.

Szenes wrote the following poem, Blessed is the Match, close to her death:
Blessed is the match that burned and kindled flames,
Blessed is the flame that set hearts on fire.
Blessed are the hearts that knew how to die with honor,
Blessed is the match that burned, and kindled flames.

May the memory of this true heroine be blessed.

Previous heroines covered in this series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OM, I'm a long-time lurker who was hoping for the return of this. Kol HaKavod to you for this wonderful choice of heroines!

6:45 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very nice. although, I must say, that the poem confuses me: "Blessed is the match that burned, and kindled flames." Forgive the stupidity, but what match is being blessed?

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ortho I read a book years ago about this girl.I was very moved

12:51 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

There's a community day school in Brooklyn named after Szenes:


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