Some 150 soldiers and two C-130s of the Israel Defence Forces visited Slovenia to commemorate Hannah Szenes and the Israeli paratroopers that fought in WW2.
An Israeli delegation landed in Cerklje ob Krki AB, Slovenia, on Sunday, Jul. 18, 2021, aboard two C-130J Hercules aircraft (661 and 668) as part of the operation that commemorated Hannah Szenes.
Hannah Szenes was born in Budapest in 1921. In 1939 she moved to Palestine and in 1941 joined the Haganah, a Zionist paramilitary organisation that collaborated with the British Armed Forces. In 1943 she enlisted in the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and started parachute training. She was part of a commando that was parachuted in Yugoslavia on March 14, 1944. After spending three months with Tito’s partisans she tried to infiltrate in the Hungary, where she was arrested by the police. She was tortured for several days, but even after that she didn’t reveal the code that she used to communicate with her military transmitter.
She was tried and convicted; a fire squad executed her on November 7, 1944. Hannah was a poet and playwright. She also kept a diary that she started writing in 1934 and continued till her final days. The diary and her poems were published posthumously.
An official ceremony was held in Prilozje pri Metliki, not far from Szenes landing site in 1944, on Jul. 19, 2021. The commemoration started with a jump of an Israeli and a Slovenian paratrooper from a Pilatus PC-6 of the Slovenian Army.
The main guests of the event were the Slovenian President Borut Pahor and the Israeli ambassador to Slovenia and Malta, Eyal Sala. Not only did they celebrate the 100th anniversary since the birth of Hannah Szenes but also the first day of the Slovenian-Israeli friendship. Both remembered the common fight against Nazi-Fascism and the good relationship between the two nations.
The two C-130s that landed on Sunday took off on Monday and Tuesday carrying 100 paratroopers from Israel joined by some of colleagues from the Armed forces of Slovenia (5), Croatia (5) and the United Kingdom (1). Monday was quite windy and not ideal for jumps, but Tuesday’s weather was just perfect.
On both days the paratroopers performed several jumps, landing at Cerklje ob Krki AB. The new location and the lower than usual jumping altitude were a great opportunity for the Israeli paratroopers to learn more skills, while the Slovenian and Croatian paratroopers were more than happy to experience jumps from the Hercules, considering that they usually fly in smaller aircraft. The Israeli delegation, led by IDF Major General Itay Virov and Paratroopers Brigade commander Colonel Yuval Gaz then moved to Croatia to inaugurate a memorial to Hannah Szenes in Čakovec, the city where she was imprisoned. Before returning to Israel, they visited also Kozma in Hungary, the Szenes original burial site, before the remains were transferred in Israel in 1950. Among the senior officers that joined the Israeli delegation in Europe there was also the now retired Major General Doron Almog, who participated also in the Israeli hostage rescue operation in Entebbe (Uganda) in 1976.