By Revital Yakin Krakovsky
“My God, My God, I pray that these things never end. The sand and the sea. The rush of the waters. The crash of the Heavens. The prayers of mankind.”
So wrote Hungarian Jewish heroine Hannah Szenes. More than her inspiring words, though, she is remembered for her courageous deeds and brave actions.
In the darkest hours of the Holocaust, she returned from the relative safety of the Land of Israel to Europe (where she was born) to help rescue Hungarian Jews being deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp.
Hannah was arrested by Hungarians who were collaborating with the Nazis. She was tortured and executed by the firing squad on November 7th, 1944, aged just 23.
Fighters, smugglers, nurses, and caretakers
Hannah’s bravery has inspired Jewish women — and men — for decades. In fact, throughout the Holocaust, there were countless Jewish women who exhibited immense bravery and heroism in the face of unimaginable horrors.
Among other roles, these women served as resistance fighters, smugglers, nurses, and caretakers.
Many of them played a critical role in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one of the most significant acts of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, whose 80th anniversary was marked this year as we marched together with survivors the annual March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau extermination camps.
While many know the name of Mordechai Anielewicz, few know the names of his brave female comrades.
One of the most well-known female heroes of the uprising was Zivia Lubetkin, who helped found the ZOB and was a deputy commander of the resistance organization.
Lubetkin was a talented strategist and worked tirelessly to ensure that the fighters were well-armed and well-prepared. In her testimony after the Holocaust, she recalled: “We had no chance of winning the battle.”
“We knew very well that we had no chance to be victorious in this battle but that despite our lack of strength, in the end we would win.”
“Us. The weak. Because that was where our strength was. We believed in justice, in human beings.”
Jewish women, beacons of bravery and resilience
Another important figure was Frumka Plotnicka. Plotnicka was also a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), which organized resistance efforts within the Warsaw Ghetto.
She was responsible for smuggling weapons into the ghetto and was known for her fierce dedication to the cause.
Mira Fuchrer also played a vital role in the uprising. She was a nurse and a member of the Jewish Combat Organization (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa, or ZOB), and she risked her life to provide medical care to wounded fighters during the battle.