On November 7, 1944, a twenty three year old poet and pacifist named Chana Szenes was executed as a spy. Today, she is a national heroine of Israel. The tragic life and often contradictory personality of Chana Szenes reflect the very essence of Israel today: tough-minded but compassionate; idealistic yet activist; serious but with a mischievous sense of fun. At the age of seventeen, Chana had become a Zionist and emigrated alone from her comfortable Budapest home to the swamps of Palestine to build a new country. But as the Holocaust raged throughout Europe, Chana's conscience and her anxiety about friends and family left behind gave her no rest. In 1943, she volunteered for one of the most daring secret missions of World War II: she asked to be parachuted into Nazi- occupied Europe to help organize resistance and escape routes for civilians and Allied airmen trapped there. At last, she made her way back to Hungary, where she was captured. After five months of brutal torture and interrogation, shortly before the liberation of Hungary, she was court-martialed and shot. Drawing on extensive interviews with Chana's family and friends, unpublished diaries, and family letters, Professor Peter Hay compellingly dramatizes the Holocaust and Jewish resistance through the experiences of a single ordinary family: Kato, the mother who stayed home; Gyuri, the son who crossed the Pyrenees on foot and, having escaped the Nazis, returned to fight them; and Chana, the Zionist daughter who sacrificed her life to give hope to her people. But Ordinary Heroes is more than a profound and moving testament to one of modern history's few heroines. A threefold portrait of a courageous young woman. a loving family, and a bold new country, Ordinary Heroes is an important and inspiring story of our times.
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