Hannah Senesh: February 22, 1943

Hannah Senesh (Chana Szenes) was 13 years old in 1934 when she began keeping a diary. At that time, the Nazis were strengthening their hold over Germany, but to Hannah, they must have seemed very far away. Unfortunately, that perception would soon change. She and her family lived in the city of Budapest in Hungary and events were unfolding in such a way that the Nazis would soon seem much closer.

Before World War I, Hungary had been part of the large Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was split from Austria and became a separate nation only a few years before Hannah was born. In March of 1938, Nazi Germany staged the takeover of Austria known as the “Anschluss”. Now the Nazis occupied the country right next door to Hungary. Even as a young girl, Hannah knew that Nazi Germany was aggressive and dangerous. She wrote in her diary about how everyone in her community feared the possibility of a coming war.

Hannah’s attention was not focused only on the events unfolding in central Europe. She also directed her gaze to Palestine. She became convinced that Zionism was the only realistic solution to the problems facing the Jews of Europe. She decided to emigrate as soon as she could. When she graduated from school, she left Hungary to start her new life. She arrived in Palestine less than one month after the beginning of World War II.

Hannah was safely outside of the reach of the Nazis, but she could not forget the fate of the Jewish people in Europe. She was especially worried about her mother, who was still in Hungary. For these reasons, she made a life-altering decision. As fervently as she had wished to live in Eretz Israel, she planned to go back to Hungary to help organize Jewish emigration while it was still possible to do so. She volunteered for the British army in the Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force and began paratrooper training. She prepared to join a group whose plan was to parachute into German-held territory to join the partisan resistance. On February 22, 1943 she wrote, “I can’t sleep at night because of the scenes I envisage: how I will conduct myself in this or that situation… how I’ll notify Mother of my arrival… how I’ll organize the Jewish Youth. Everything is still indefinite. We’ll see what the future brings…”

To find out what happened to Hannah and how her future unfolded, you can visit the Jewish Virtual Library.

A new film has been made about Hannah Senesh, named after one of her famous poems, Blessed is the Match. To learn more about the film, see this site.

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