National Library digitizes poet-soldier Hannah Senesh’s literary estate

Archive includes her Bat Mitzvah certificate, notebooks, diaries, and other personal items; move comes in honor of what would have been her 100th birthday

Hannah Senesh with chickens on Moshav Nahalal, part of the Hannah Senesh Collection that is now part of Israel's National Library (Courtesy National Library of Israel)
Hannah Senesh with chickens on Moshav Nahalal, part of the Hannah Senesh Collection that is now part of Israel's National Library (Courtesy National Library of Israel)

In honor of the 100th birthday of Hungarian-born soldier and poet Hannah Senesh, who was captured and killed by the Nazis after she parachuted into Hungary during World War II, Israel’s National Library has digitized dozens of items from a recently acquired archive of her possessions.

The collection, which includes drawings, notebooks, diaries, her Bat Mitzvah certificate, personal documents, is now available online globally.

Senesh’s literary estate came to the library last year, and has been worked on by experts since, in an effort to catalog, preserve and digitize the archive’s contents.

Some of the notable items the library listed as available for viewing include her Hebrew vocabulary notebook with sketches and drawings, her bat mitzvah certificate, documents from her schools in Budapest and Nahalal, and a notebook in which she recorded all of the books she read.

Personal items in the archive include her typewriter, camera, and a sewing box with her gloves and locks of her and her brother’s hair.

The suitcase she moved to Israel with has also been recorded in the new archive.

Hannah Senesh’s pocket diary from when she moved to Israel in1939 (Courtesy National Library of Israel)

The Hungarian-born Senesh immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1939 and quickly joined the Haganah, the forebear of the IDF.

During World War II, she joined a Jewish contingent of the British military and parachuted into then-Yugoslavia, continuing on foot to Hungary to meet up with partisans there.

She was captured at the border, interrogated, and sentenced to death at the age of 23. Her remains were later moved to Israel and reinterred in the Mount Herzl National Cemetery.

A pair of notes found in Senesh’s dress following her execution are also available in the digital archive. One is the last poem she ever wrote and the other is a personal letter to her mother, the library said.

Her diary and poetry are still read in Israel today, most famously the poem “Eli, Eli,” or “My God, my God.”

The digitized items in the Hannah Senesh Archival Collection at the National Library of Israel are available for viewing here.

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