Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A True Heroine

(Helen Szenes -- A near "spittin' image" of my mama)

Eli Eli / My God, My God
Genesis 22:17-18

Eli Eli she’lo igamer le’olam
Hacho ve’hayam rish’rush shel hamayim
Ver’rak hashamayim t’filat ha’adam

My God, My God, may it never end
The sand of the sea, the Sound of the waves
The brightness of the sky, and man’s prayer

Hanna Szenes (or Chana Senesh) was born in Budapest, Hungary on July 17, 1921. Her father was a playwright and newspaper columnist who died when she was six. Nonetheless, she and her year-older brother, George, were reared in a middle-class, assimilated home by their mother, Catherine. With rising anti-Jewish activity in Hungary, Szenes became a Zionist and yearned to go to the Jewish homeland.

She wrote in her journal: "The thought that now occupies my every waking moment is Palestine. Everything in connection with it interests me, everything else is entirely secondary." To Hannah's surprise, George also became a Zionist while studying at a university in France.

Just after her 18th birthday, Szenes got her papers to immigrate to Israel. Upon her arrival, she fell upon the sand at the seashore of Caesarea and afterward wrote this beautiful prayer of Hope, Eli, Eli (My God, My God). Later she went to agricultural college and worked the land on a kibbutz.

But Hannah also had an unwavering desire to help her brethren. She found herself in contact with a group forming to rescue European Jewry. Along with 32 other Jews, she formally joined the British army and was trained as a parachutist in Cairo. Their mission: parachute into Europe, help Allied pilots that had been shot down, assist local efforts against the Nazis and aid in smuggling Jews to safety in then-Palestine. Szenes went to Yugoslavia, where she helped pilots and partisans.

After a while, she grew dissatisfied when many of the partisans were not interested in helping Jews escape. When Germany began deporting Jews from her native Hungary, Szenes bravely crossed the border with a French partisan and two escaping Jews. Caught by a Hungarian Nazi patrol and brutally beaten, Szenes refused to give information regarding her mission.
November 7, 1944, Hannah (and her team) were sentenced to death for treason and executed by firing squad. Her only crime? Saving little children from going to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Refusing the blindfold, she stared squarely into the eyes of her executioners.

In 1950, Szenes's remains were flown to Israel and reburied on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem with six other parachutists who died during their heroic mission.


Da Katz & Reni said...

My Mother & Helen look enough alike to be sisters or cousins...


Marti said...

WOW ! ! ! It is really strange to look at 'my face' in a 1940's uniform. I would really like to trace her family tree along with mine - I bet they're connected.

LUV YA ! ! !


Kat Renee & Katie said...

We gotta be related... for sure.