Monday, April 12, 2010

Blessed is the Match

Daring Mission in Nazi Europe

By David Luhrssen
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It sounds like a Hollywood movie: During World War II, a young Jewish woman on a kibbutz joins the RAF and leaves Palestine on a secret mission into Nazi-occupied Europe. For the British, it’s an opportunity to make mischief for the Germans and establish a network to rescue downed fliers. For the woman and her compatriots, it was an opportunity to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.

The plot line, however, was not invented by screenwriters but really happened. The award-winning documentary Blessed is the Match (out on DVD) tells the story of Hannah Senesh, a 22-year old who immigrated from Hungary to Palestine just as the war began. Plagued with guilt and worry over the mother she left behind and a brother trying to survive in France, Senesh was eager to trade the spade of her agriculture commune for a rifle.

Directed by Roberta Grossman and narrated by Joan Allen, Blessed is the Match draws its material from the memoirs of Hannah’s mother, Catherine Senesh, Hannah’s diaries and interviews with survivors. Juxtaposing well made reenactments with well chosen archival footage, Blessed is the Match is the gripping story of an unlikely hero. Hannah grew up in great comfort, with a maid laying out her clothes in the morning. An idealist with few personal attachments outside her family, Hannah gave up the privilege of Budapest for the hardship of the kibbutz, and the relative safety of Palestine for a dangerous mission in Europe, after being stung by the tide of anti-Semitism that rose in her homeland as local fascists began to emulate their Nazi allies.

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