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1944: Desperate Acts
 pg. 529 
Hannah Szenes relaxes in her native Budapest, Hungary, before the war. Very gifted, Hannah excelled in her studies before immigrating to Palestine, where she joined a kibbutz. Her diaries and poems reflect a love of life exceeded only by her fierce commitment to the Jewish people. One of a daring band of parachutists sent into Yugoslavia to rescue Allied pilots and further Jewish resistance, she was captured after crossing into Hungary. Tortured, she refused to reveal radio codes. Her poem "Blessed Is the Match" became an emblem of her own heroic self-sacrifice. It included the line "Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame."
Photo: Yad Vashem
Immigrating to Palestine from her native Slovakia in 1939, Haviva Reik joined the Hagana (Jewish military organization) to fight the Nazis. Following that service, Reik volunteered for the even more dangerous duty of parachutist, hoping that she could return to her native land to rescue her fellow Jews. Landing near Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, on September 21, 1944, she sought to reach leaders of the Jewish Resistance in Bratislava. Fierce fighting impeded her mission, and Reik, her fellow parachutists, and local partisans retreated to the mountains. Captured by the SS, she was fatally shot on November 20.
Photo: Yad Vashem
Palestinian Paratroopers

About 250 Palestinian Jews volunteered to serve as paratroopers in the British Army--a highly dangerous mission. The ones selected were chosen from the best and brightest Eastern European Jews, those who could speak Balkan languages and were familiar with Balkan customs and geography.

After training, 32 Jews parachuted into the Balkans, Austria, and France to spy for the British. Once the Jews finished their Allied missions, the British permitted them to help their Jewish coreligionists. Although the British were at first opposed to the training of Palestinian Jews to fight, the British deputy minister of state in Cairo, Lord Walter Moyne, finally agreed to their training. Cynically, he recognized that parachuting the bravest Jews on suicide missions in Eastern Europe would permanently remove them from Palestine.

One of the most famous Palestinian-Jewish paratroopers was Hannah Szenes, a Hungarian-born poet. Like most others, she successfully completed her mission for the British. But once her task for them was completed, she was caught and executed by the Germans. Another of the group, Enzo Sereni, was trained by the British and dropped into northern Italy in May 1944. Wearing the uniform of a British captain, he was captured and sent to the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp, where he was a leading figure among the prisoners.
Photo: Government Press Office, Lishkat Ha-ltonut / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

 June 1944: An American public opinion poll indicates that 57 percent of Americans anticipate "a widespread campaign in this country" against Jews.
 June 1944: 13,500 Jews are deported from Miskolc, Hungary, to Auschwitz.
 June 1, 1944: With 55,000 unused United States quota slots from Occupied Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt agrees to allow only 1000 Jewish refugees into the United States. They will be housed at Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York.
 June 2, 1944: Itzhak Gruenbaum, the chairman of the Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency, requests the bombing of rail lines that lead to Auschwitz.
 June 2, 1944: The Allies begin a bombing operation (Operation Frantic) in the Balkans, the goal of which is to distract the Germans from upcoming Allied landings in France. Bombing routes overfly the railway lines leading from Hungary to Auschwitz. The operation lasts for four months, during the deportation of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. The railway lines carrying the Jews are never targeted.
1944: Desperate Acts
 pg. 529 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.