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The Heroic Story of Hannah Szenes, Captured in Her Final Note and Diary

Explore a legacy of courage and poetry

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023

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Hannah Szenes’ heartfelt final words to her mother, written from a Budapest jail cell in 1944, and her diaries from Palestine capture the essence of an extraordinary life marked by courage, sacrifice, and poetic brilliance. “My dear, beloved mother,” wrote Hannah Szenes on November 7, 1944, from her jail cell in Budapest. “I have no words. All I can say to you is a million thanks. Forgive me if you can. You alone will understand why there is no need for words. With endless love, your daughter”.

These documents, preserved by the National Library of Israel, offer a deeply personal insight into the life of one of the most iconic figures in Jewish history and the struggle against antisemitism and the Holocaust.

Hannah Szenes’ last note, Hungary, 1944.

Among the treasures are pages from Szenes’ diary, revealing her literary talent through drafts of two poems, including “A Walk to Caesarea” (Halikhah le-Kesariyah), also known as “Eli, Eli.” These writings highlight Szenes’ poetic gift and her commitment to the Jewish cause. As a member of the Yishuv in Palestine, Szenes bravely parachuted into Yugoslavia during World War II to assist anti-Nazi forces and was ultimately captured and executed by a Hungarian firing squad without betraying her mission.

Hannah Szenes’ writings, now part of the National Library of Israel’s collection, serve as a powerful reminder of the resilience and bravery of those who stood against oppression. Her legacy, captured in these poignant documents, continues to inspire and resonate, underscoring the human capacity for heroism and the enduring spirit of resistance.

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Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) holds the collective memory of Israelis of all backgrounds and faiths and the Jewish people worldwide. While continuing to serve as Israel's preeminent research library, over the past decade NLI has embarked upon an ambitious journey of renewal to encourage...

Reflections

Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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