Born in Budapest, Hannah Szenes became a Zionist and immigrated to Palestine in 1939. In 1943 Jewish agency officials asked Szenes to join a clandestine military operation. She became a member of the Palmah and participated in a course for paratroopers.
In March 1944, she was dropped into Yugoslavia to aid anti-Nazi forces. Szenes was captured in June after entering Hungary, and sent to a prison in Budapest, where she was tortured. Since Szenes would not talk, Hungarian authorities arrested her mother. Both women remained silent. Given the chance to beg for a pardon in November 1944, Szenes instead chose death by firing squad.
Tosia Altman grew up in a Jewish Community in Lipno, Poland. She learned Polish and Hebrew and was an active member of the Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir youth movement. With the outbreak of World War 2, she became a spy for Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir. A fearless leader in the Jewish clandestine resistance to the Nazi occupation, Altman played an integral role in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of April 18, 1943. She was badly injured in a fire in the attic in which she was hiding. Altman died a few months later in the custody of the Germans.
The leadership of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir in Vilna was extremely concerned with the fate of the movement’s members who were left behind under German occupation. As a member of the central leadership, and with the appropriate personality and appearance, Altman was instructed to return to the Generalgouvernement (Nazi-occupied Poland). She was the first to return to occupied Poland (followed later by Josef Kaplan, Mordecai Anielewicz and Samuel Braslav).
After two failed attempts to cross both the Soviet and German borders, she finally succeeded. Altman gathered the remaining youth-group leaders and organized the movement’s branches. Even though Jews were prohibited from traveling on trains, Altman began to make the rounds of other cities. In every city she reached, she encouraged the young people to engage in clandestine educational and social activity. Altman corresponded with the leadership in Vienna (Adam Rand), the movement in Palestine and emissaries in Switzerland (Nathan Schwalb and Heine Borenstein). The correspondence was written in code for fear of German censors.
In early 1940, Eta started working as a clerk in an employment agency. Soon she began resisting the occupation by forging false identity papers for Jews. In October 1942, Eta’s ghetto was ‘liquidated’ and the Jews were exported to concentration camps. During the transition, Eta and her father managed to escape into the woods.
Eta organized an all-Jewish partisan unit of close to eighty people. Her unit stole most of their supplies, slept in cramped quarters, and had almost no access to medical attention. Eta’s unit set mines to hinder German movement and to cut off supply routes.
Haika Grossman participated in the “movement” at a gathering in a convent near Vilna, where the group, led by Abba Kovner (1918–1988), decided on armed resistance. Sent to Bialystok to organize the fighting underground, she served as a contact person between Vilna and Bialystok and other ghettos. Her “ammunition” was resourcefulness, arrogance, courage, strong nerves and constant alertness, all of which saved her from virtually hopeless situations. “
Between August 1943 and August 1944, Grosman participated in forming a group of six women in Bialystok, called “the anti-fascist committee.” The aim of their hazardous activity was the ongoing maintenance of contact with the Soviet partisan brigade in the forest. They led Jews to them, established relations with anti-fascist Germans in the towns, and used their help to acquire ammunition for the underground and the partisans. With the surrender of the German troops, Grosman and her friends marched in the front line, side by side with the Soviet Brigade fighters that entered the city in August 1944.