DVD Review: “Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh”

blessed is the match hannah and a soldier 757796 The extraordinary story of Hannah Senesh (1921-1944) is not very well known to most people, so there is reason to be grateful for Roberta Gossman’s wonderful documentary.

The daughter of a prominent Jewish family in Budapest, Senesh fled her native country for British-mandated Palestine prior to the outbreak of World War II. In 1943, she joined the British military and trained for an incredibly dangerous mission in which she would paratroop back into Nazi-controlled Europe and provide coordination between the partisan movements and the Allied forces.

Senesh was captured at the Yugoslavian-Hungarian border, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo-trained Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, but she did not reveal the details of her top-secret assignment to her captors.

Senesh was executed by a firing squad before the official verdict of the Nazi-controlled court was announced; her body was returned to Israel for proper burial in 1950. The posthumous publication of her diaries and poetry, however, offered an intellectual sensitivity and literary insight that gave greater depth to her heroic life.

Working with a mix of interviews with former classmates, kibbutz colleagues and wartime cellmates, plus rarely seen newsreel footage, a few dramatic re-enactments and a concise recitation of her writing by narrator Joan Allen, “Blessed is the Match” offers an excellent tribute to a young woman who has been, for too long, an unsung hero of World War II.

“Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh”
2009, 89 minutes, not rated
Directed by Roberta Gossman, released by The A.V. Club

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