Hannah Senesh was born in Budapest on July 17, 1921. Although her family was assimilated, anti-Semitic sentiment in Budapest led her to involvement in Zionist activities, and she left Hungary for Eretz Yisrael in 1939. She studied first at an agricultural school, and then settled at Kibbutz Sdot Yam. While there she wrote poetry, as well as a play about kibbutz life. In 1943, Senesh joined the British Army and volunteered to be parachuted into Europe. The purpose of this operation was to help the Allied efforts in Europe and establish contact with partisan resistance fighters in an attempt to aid beleaguered Jewish communities.
Senesh trained in Egypt and was one of the thirty-three people chosen to parachute behind enemy lines. With the goal of reaching her native Budapest, Senesh parachuted into Yugoslavia in March 1944, and spent three months with Tito’s partisans. On June 7, 1944, at the height of the deportation of Hungarian Jews, Senesh crossed the border into Hungary. She was caught almost immediately by the Hungarian police, and tortured cruelly and repeatedly over the next several months.
Despite these conditions, Senesh refused to divulge any information about her mission. Even the knowledge that her mother was at risk and that she too might be harmed did not compel Senesh to cooperate with the police. At her trial in October 1944, Senesh staunchly defended her activities and she refused to request clemency. Throughout her ordeal she remained steadfast in her courage, and when she was executed by a firing squad on November 7, she refused the blindfold, staring squarely at her executors and her fate. Senesh was only 23 years old.
Hannah Senesh’s Quote:
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
The song Eli, Eli (My God, My God) was written by Hanna Senesh
Hannah Senesh greets her brother Giora on his arrival in Israel