This article was published in the Palestine Post on March 29, 1950 on the occasion of Hannah Szenes’ reinterment in Jerusalem. Szenes had originally been buried in Hungary following her execution, but her body was brought to Israel in 1950 to be buried in Jerusalem.
The article mentions the presence of a number of people at the ceremony, including the prime minister, Moshe Sharett, other government ministers and officials, Hannah Szenes’ mother, brother, and other relatives, and members of the general public who loved and admired her. The procession began in Tel Aviv and proceeded to Jerusalem, with a number of notable officials speaking along the way. The Knesset paused its work in order to allow members to go and greet the procession on its way to Mount Herzl.
The article describes in detail the procession and the ceremony, which was both a religious and a national event. During the burial at Mount Herzl, the chazan (cantor) said the memorial prayers and Hannah’s brother said Kaddish. Wreaths were then placed on the grave, volleys were fired, and bugles were sounded. Speeches were also given beside the grave. The foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, stated that: “The people living in Zion are filled with pride” and referred to her as our “sister Hannah.” Sharett, as well as the speakers after him, remembered the other young volunteers who also died in the fight against the Nazis. Daniel Auster, the mayor of Jerusalem, Zvia Katzenelson, a member of Hannah’s kibbutz, and Yoel Palgi, one of Hannah’s comrades in the British Army all spoke of her spirit and the inspiration of her heroism to all.
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Hannah Szenes -Hannah Szenes (also written Senesh) was born in Budapest on July 17, 1921. Her father was a writer and journalist who died when Hannah was six years old. On completing high school, Szenes experienced anti-Semitism and decided to emigrate to Israel in 1939 and join the Zionist pioneers. She spent two years training at an agricultural school in Nahalal and was one of the founding members of Kibbutz Sdot Yam.
Szenes was disturbed by the events in Europe and felt a strong need to take part in the fight against the Nazis. In 1943 she volunteered for the British Army and her background and courage made her an ideal candidate for one of the most dangerous secret initiatives of the British and the Yishuv in Israel: parachuting into Nazi-occupied Europe to collect information about the German forces and assist the underground movements.
In March 1944 Hannah Szenes and her comrades parachuted into Yugoslavia, near the Hungarian border. The paratroopers worked with partisans in Croatia, and in June 1944 Szenes crossed the border into Hungary. She was caught immediately and sent by the Hungarian police to Budapest for interrogation. Despite severe torture, she refused to give up details of the mission or its members. She was tried for treason, and in November 1944, before the trial was even completed, she was executed in a prison in Budapest.
Hannah Szenes was known as a talented poet and writer. She kept a personal diary until her very last day. After her death, many of her poems were discovered, poems such as “Blessed is the Match” and “A Walk to Caesarea” which later became an integral part of Israeli culture. Szenes also wrote letters, and a play called The Violin about kibbutz life. Szenes wrote in both Hebrew and Hungarian; the latter works were collected and translated into Hebrew.
In 1950, Hannah Szenes’ remains were brought for reburial on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. In November 2007, her gravestone was brought from the Jewish cemetery in Budapest and placed in the cemetery in Kibbutz Sdot Yam.
Hannah Szenes has become a symbolic figure in Israeli culture, a symbol of heroism and self-sacrifice. No less esteemed is her literary talent and her few but beloved works remain alive in Israeli culture to this day.
The National Library collection contains letters by Hannah Szenes in Hebrew and Hungarian, manuscripts of her poems, postcards, and manuscripts of her songs and music scores.