Jewish Parachutists from Palestine
Between 1943 and 1945, a group of Jewish men and women from Palestine who had volunteered to join the British army parachuted into German-occupied Europe. Their mission was to organize resistance to the Germans and aid in the rescue of Allied personnel. Of the 250 original volunteers, 110 underwent training. Thirty-two eventually parachuted into Europe and five infiltrated the target countries by other routes. Most of those selected for training were emigres from Europe, with intimate knowledge of the countries to which they would be sent.
Three of the parachutists infiltrated Hungary, five participated in the Slovak national uprising in October 1944, and six operated in northern Italy. Ten parachutists served with British liaison missions to the Yugoslav partisans. Nine parachutists operated in Romania. Two others entered Bulgaria, and one each operated in France and Austria.
The Germans captured 12 and executed 7 of the 37 parachutists sent into occupied Europe. Three of those executed were captured in Slovakia. Two were captured in Hungary and one in northern Italy. After 7 missions the parachutist who entered France was captured and killed.
Hannah Szenes Hannah Szenes, one of the best-known of the parachutists, was seized in German-occupied Hungary and executed in Budapest on November 7, 1944, at the age of 23. Szenes was a talented poet and her songs are still sung in Israel.
After the war, remains of the seven parachutists who lost their lives during the war, including Szenes, were interred in the National Military Cemetery overlooking Jerusalem in Israel.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What obstacles and limitations did Jews face when considering resistance?
- What pressures and motivations may have influenced these individuals’ decisions and actions?
- Read some of Hannah Szenes's poems. What are some of the themes found in her poetry?
- How can societies, communities, and individuals reinforce and strengthen the willingness to stand up for others?