“Hannah Senesh Laid to Rest”
Hannah Senesh Laid to Rest
The nation yesterday paid tribute to Hannah Senesh, symbol of a group of courageous young pioneers who fell abroad in the service of their people before the emergence of the State. The remains of the 24 year old parachutist, who was dropped behind Nazi lines in Yugoslavia, caught and executed in Hungary, were reinterred in the military cemetery on a slope of Mt. Herzl.
In a simple, solemn ceremony the black metal, flag draped coffin was placed in the courtyard of the Jewish Agency at 2 o'clock. Present were the Prime Minister, Mr. D. Ben Gurion; the Knesset Speaker, Mr. Y. Sprinzak; the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive Mr. Berl Locker, as well as other leading officials in the Government and the National Institutions.
Flag at Half-Mast
For one hour and a quarter hundreds of persons – a few who knew Hannah, others who knew only her already legendary story – ringed the courtyard. The yard was so quiet that the flapping of the flag at half-mast above the Agency building could be heard distinctly.
At regular intervals trim squads of infantrymen, parachutists, airmen, and sailors took up their posts as military Guards of Honour on either side of the bier.
An Army weapon carrier loaded with wreaths of spring flowers that began to wilt in the sharp wind stood off to one side.
At 3.15 Hannah’s mother, who had been held as a hostage by the Nazis to induce her daughter to reveal secrets, her brother, and close relatives gathered on the Agency balcony. There also were Mr. Ben Gurion; the Foreign Minister, Mr. Moshe Sharett; the Minister of Justice, Mr. P. Rosen; the Mayor, Mr. D. Auster, notables and friends.
Mr. Sharett was the first to speak.
“The people living in Zion are filled with pride for its daughter who sanctified its name by her life and death,” he said.
Referring to her as “our sister Hannah,” Mr. Sharett said that in bringing her to a grave of honour Israel recalls those underground fighters who fell in foreign lands in unknown places, and who lie in unmarked graves.
He remembered Hannah’s six young comrades, the 23 who were lost off the shores of Tripoli, the volunteers who fell in commando raids in the Near East and in the islands off the Mediterranean and in the Balkan countries.
Mr. Auster described the courage of Hannah Senesh who, he said, has become a legend that will continue to inspire the younger generation.
Zvia Katznelson, of Sdot Yam, eulogized her kibbutz comrade with deep emotion. She spoke of Hannah’s life of work and of her desire to devote herself to the land.
Yoel Palgi, one of the parachutists who dropped behind the lines and survived, spoke on behalf of the emissaries who worked in Europe, and described how a new spirit had spread through the camps when they heard of Hannah and courage of her friends.
At 4 o’clock the coffin was borne to a weapon-carrier by six kibbutz pall bearers. The kilometre-Iong convoy then left for Mt. Herzl.
The Knesset adjourned for an hour and the convoy paused briefly outside the House where Members had gathered.
As the cars and buses moved through the streets the curbs were lined with hundreds who watched in silence.
On the northern slope of Mt. Herzl, in the cemetery where heroes of Israel’s war of Independence lie, the bier was lowered into a grave, at the head of which was a simple white marker. The memorial prayer was chanted by an Army cantor, Hannah Senesh’s brother recited the kaddish, three volleys were fired and the bugle was sounded.
Wreaths were then placed on the grave by Mr. Ben Gurion; Rav-Aloof Yisrael Yadin, Chief of the General Staff; heads of the three branches of the Armed Forces; and representatives of the S’dot Yam, the Agricultural School at Nahalal where she studied, and other groups and organizations.
Among those present at the cemetery were Mr. and Mrs. Sharett; the Minister of Labour, Mrs. Golda Myerson; Knesset members; Government and Municipal officials; and representatives of national organizations and institutions.
When the last wreath was placed in position, the crowd dispersed, and rain began falling from the overcast skies. A few friends who remained behind threw petals of flowers into the grave, and then they too left.
Earlier in the day the cortege passed through the streets of Tel Aviv, stopping in Allenby Road, opposite Rehov Bialik. where Mr. Eliezer Peri, the Vice-Mayor, spoke from a flag-decked dais. Near the headquarters of the Histadrut Executive, where blue-white and red flags were flown at half mast. Mrs. Beba Idelson spoke. The cortege then proceeded to Jerusalem.
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.
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.
This article can be used in Jewish History lessons about the Holocaust or to explore the life of Hannah Szenes and other famous heroes and heroines throughout Jewish history.
This article can also be used when discussing Jewish ceremonies and why this event was so significant.
Which newspaper published this article?
When was this article written?
What is being reported?
Which people are mentioned in the article? What were their roles?
What were the different parts of the event?
Reading Between the Lines
Why was Hannah Szenes buried in Hungary?
Why was she reburied in Jerusalem?
Why do you think so many people, including thousands who didn’t know her, attended Szenes’ burial ceremony?
Who spoke at the ceremony?
What did they represent?
What did they say?
Hannah Szenes was buried in the national cemetery on Mount Herzl.
Have you been to the funeral of a famous person or of someone who did something famous during their lifetime?
Write a short speech that might have been given at a memorial service for Szenes.
Focus on what young people of today could learn from her short life.