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December 1, 2020 10:28 am

Archival Collection of Hannah Senesh Comes to National Library of Israel

avatar by JNS.org

The National Library of Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – In 1944, the Jewish, Hungarian-born paratrooper Hannah Senesh (Szenes) was parachuted into occupied Europe by the British in a desperate attempt to save Hungarian Jews from the Nazi death camps. Captured, tortured and executed shortly thereafter, her story and her poems, including “A Walk to Caesarea” (known popularly as “Eli, Eli”/“O Lord, My God”), have made Senesh into an iconic figure of modern Jewish, Israeli and Zionist culture.

A year after her execution, a soldier in the British Army’s Jewish Brigade named Moshe Braslavski returned to Kibbutz Sdot Yam in Mandatory Palestine, where he found a suitcase full of previously unknown letters, diaries, songs and poems under Senesh’s bed. This discovery and the subsequent publication of some of her work is what made Senesh’s literary contributions known to the world.

After the war, her mother, Katherine, came to Mandatory Palestine, bringing more of Senesh’s writings and personal items that had been kept at home in Budapest. Katherine received the materials from the kibbutz, and she kept the complete archival collection in her apartment in Haifa. Following Katherine’s death in 1992 and the death of Senesh’s brother, Giora, in 1995, the materials were passed down to Giora’s sons, Eitan and David, who used them to promote their aunt’s memory and legacy. Eitan also worked to manage, catalogue, translate and preserve the literary estate.

Over the past year, Ori and Mirit Eisen from Arizona have enabled the transfer of the complete Hannah Senesh Archival Collection to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, where it will be made available to the public and safeguarded along with the personal papers of other cultural figures, such as Martin Buber, Franz Kafka and Naomi Shemer.

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