Hannah Szenes

Hannah Szenes

Poet, Hungarian Jewish parachutist, Israeli national heroine

The name of Hannah Szenes (Chana Senesh) is almost universally recognized. Public areas in Israel are named after her. She was one of those seventeen Hungarian Jewish who were drilled and forced by the Palestines (under control of the British army) to be dropped by parachute to Yugoslavia and to prevent the imminent deportation of Hungarian Jews somehow.

Hanna was born in Budapest, on 17 June 1921 (with the name Aniko), as a child of a wealthy, bourgeois family. Her father, Bela Szenes was an author of the Comedy Theatre in Budapest and he was the outstanding representative of the intellectual elite. The first huge tragedy in Aniko’s life was when her beloved father dead in 1927, and perhaps this fact effected her unfolding; since then began she form an extraordinary creature: the reclusive girl played sports, music, she learned hard, and she was excellently learned languages like English, German and French as well.

After that she started to realize the political and social issues of the second half of the 1930s, she increasingly looked for opportunities to break out of it: she became a member of the Zionist movement, and began to learn Hebrew. In September, 1939 she arrived at the British Mandate of Palestine and started to learn in the Girls’ Agricultural School at Nahalal, where she first began to write poems. She entered (as a volunteer) in the local British army, where she graduated as an officer. She was arrested over some reasons in 1944, March 13 when she tried to cross the Hungarian border together with other partizans. It was due to a betrayal.

The Nazi military prosecutor sentenced to death for Hanna, on charges of adultery, although she was not a Hungarian citizen. She was executed by a firing squad on November 7, 1944, and for her own request, it happened without any obscuring. The implementation was in the jail of Margaret Boulevard. Her body was exported from Hungary to Jerusalem, Mount Herzl by the Israeli authorities, in 1950. After some state honors her body now can rest in peace. In 1993, the Hungarian military court acquitted her from the charges. Hanna Szenes got a special commemorative plaque on the wall of Hungarian Jewish Museum. What is more, a park in the VIIth district was named after her.

„There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for mankind.”

Hanna Szenes Park
1073 Budapest, at the crossing of Jósika and Rózsa Street

There can be found for example the Ferenc Rózsa memorial fount, or a bronze statue of Sandor Mikus (made in 1966, height: 2 meters).