Hannah Szenes, while living in Palestine in 1943 and writing song lyrics/poetry volunteered for a Jewish commando unit.
Like Liliana in IW Episode 3, with the help of the British military, she was trained as a wireless operator. In 1944 Szenes parachuted into Yugoslavia with her male teammates. Her unit continued on to her Homeland; to helping the war effort in Nazi-allied Hungary where millions of Jews were being imprisoned. Like many WW 2 wireless operators she was discovered by Nazi allies within the first couple of months, interrogated and tortured for the radio transmitter codes.
Although only 23, she didn’t succumb to their methods and was convicted of treason and executed. A farewell letter to her mother which was discovered in her dress pocket is now part of the Szenes archival collection at the National Library of Israel which also includes her poems, diaries and song lyrics.
This July to celebrate the centenary of Hannah Szenes’ birthday, 140 Israeli soldiers parachuted to the same location as Szenes and her team and followed the mission’s footsteps into Budapest. Szenes is a heroine in Israel but almost unknown in Hungary. The reenactment of her journey will bring attention to her commitment, contributions and sacrifice. Perhaps her heroic story, which has been historically honoured in Israel, made a difference in the inclusion and employment of women in its secret service and in its leadership ranks (click here for more).
Special thanks to John Morgan for bringing the story of Hannah Szenes to my attention.