Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Katherine Szenes was born in 1896 in Janoshaza, a small town in Western Hungary. She was educated in Janoshaza and in Vienna, and married Bela Szenes, a successful playwright, in 1919. They lived a comfortable life of affluence. Two children, Giora and Hannah, were born in 1920 and 1921. Although their parents were assimilated Jews, Hannah and Giora participated in Zionist activities, and they were personally affected by the anti-Semitism and discrimination which pervaded Hungary of the 1930's.
Hannah emigrated to Palestine in September 1939, and her brother followed
shortly thereafter. She joined kibbutz S'dot Yam1 in order to fulfull her
Zionist ideals. As news of the fate of the Jews of Europe reached her,
she became concerned with fulfilling what she saw as her duty to do her
part for the rescue of European Jewry. Fear for her mother's fate motivated
her to enlist in a special Palestinian-Jewish parachutists unit of the
British Army, whose mission was to parachute into Yugoslavia, rescue Allied
prisoners of war (particularly pilots), and organize Jewish resistance.
In her diary entry of January 8, 1943, Hannah wrote: "I feel I must
be (in Hungary) during these days in order to help organize youth emigrations,
and also to get my mother out".2 In March 1944 Hannah Szenes parachuted
into Yugoslavia. She crossed the Hungarian border on June 7, but her mission
ended in tragedy when she was arrested by German troops.