Hannah Szenes’s notebook of poems is one of the most fascinating items in the Hannah Szenes Collection at the National Library of Israel.
Just before embarking on a parachuting mission in Europe, a mission from which she did not return, Szenes copied her poems into one neat, organized notebook with numbered pages. The title of the notebook, which is filled mostly with poems in Hebrew, is Without Language. Szenes signed it with her underground name, Hagar. She gave this notebook to her close friend Miriam Yitzhak, who studied with her at the Nahalal Agricultural School for Girls. On the first page, Szenes added a dedication: “To Miriam Yitzchak, to my first and dearest reader and critic, in true friendship, Hannah.” Some pages that had been torn from the notebook were given to the National Library by Hannah’s mother, Katrina Szenes, but the notebook itself stayed with Miriam Yitzhak. It was only after Miriam Yitzhak’s death that the notebook reached the Szenes family. In 2021 they decided to donate the notebook and other items from the Szenes family estate to the National Library of Israel. Hannah Szenes was born in 1921 in Budapest, Hungary to an educated family who were actively involved in Hungarian society. In 1939 she immigrated to Eretz Israel, where she studied at the agricultural school in Nahalal and then joined Kibbutz Sdot Yam. In 1943 she volunteered for the British Army and joined a group of fighters training for a paratroop mission in Nazi-occupied Europe. In March 1944, Hannah and her comrades parachuted into Yugoslavia, close to the Hungarian border. In June, Hannah crossed the border and was immediately apprehended and imprisoned. In a prison in Budapest, she was brutally tortured but refused to give any details about the mission or her friends. On November 7, 1944, Hannah Szenes was executed for treason in her native Hungary.