Hannah Szenes was one of 37 Jews from Mandatory Palestineparachuted by the British Army into Yugoslavia during the Second World War to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.
On March 14, 1944, she and colleagues Yoel Palgi and Peretz Goldstein were parachuted into Yugoslaviaand joined a partisan group. After landing, they learned the Germans had already occupied Hungary, so the men decided to call off the mission as too dangerous. Szenes continued on and headed for the Hungarian border. At the border, she and her companions were arrested by Hungarian gendarmes, who found her British military transmitter, used to communicate with the SOE and other partisans. Hannah was taken to a prison, stripped, tied to a chair, then whipped and clubbed for three days. The guards wanted to know the code for her transmitter so they could find out who the parachutists were and misdirect others. Transferred to a Budapest prison, Hannah was repeatedly interrogated and cruelly tortured, but she only revealed her name and refused to provide the transmitter code, even when her mother was also arrested. They threatened to kill her mother if she did not cooperate, but Hannah held firm (and probably saved her mother’s life as a result).
While in prison, Szenes used a mirror to flash signals out of the window to prisoners in other cells and communicated using large cut-out letters that she placed in her cell window one at a time and by drawing the Magen David in the dust. She tried to keep their spirits up by singing, and through all the things Szenes went through she still kept her spirit high and stayed true to her mission.
She was eventually tried and executed by firing squad.
She kept diary entries until her last day, November 7, 1944 when she was executed by a German firing squad. One of them read: “In the month of July, I shall be twenty-three/I played a number in a game/The dice have rolled. I have lost,” and another: “I loved the warm sunlight.