Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Katherine Szenes | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Footnotes

Katherine Szenes - Part IV

At eleven o'clock, when the judges retired to deliberatel, the doors were flung open and I glimpsed Hannah amidst the group streaming out. She had no idea I would be there, and rushing over, threw her arms around me. The guard separated us, and said he could permit us to talk only after the sentence had been passed. I was deathly pale, but she was flushed, excited, her eyes brilliant, her smile self-confident.

They were soon recalled, but after a few tense moments, appeared again. Hannah told me the judges had not reached a decision, and judgment had been postponed for eight days, which meant until the following Saturday, November 4.

One-Two-Three by Hannah Szenes Budapest 1944, her last poem.

eight feet long,
Two strides across, the rest is dark...
Life hangs over me like a question mark.

maybe another week,
Or next month may still find me here,
But death, I feel, is very near.

I could have been
twenty-three next July;
I gambled on what mattered most,
The dice were cast. I lost.

Translated from the Hungarian by: Peter Hay

The guard ... warned us our time was up, but reminded me that now the trial was over there was nothing to prevent me from visiting my daughter in Conti Street Prison. He said I could obtain a visitor's pass without any trouble at the prison office, so I promised to visit her on Monday, October 30.

On October 30 and 31 there were such intensive air raids that I was prevented from leaving the house; thus I was unable to get to the prison. On November 1, I presented myself at the office, only to be told that since it was a holiday - All Saints' - visitors were not allowed. On November 2, I tried again, but was told that since sentence had not been passed it would be necessary to obtain a pass from Captain Simon, the Judge Advocate, whose office was at the Hadik Barracks. It was impossible to go there that same day, so it was not until November 3 that I applied for a pass at the office of Captain Simon. But then I was given to understand that Captain Simon was out of town, and could not be reached until Tuesday, November 7. When I explained why I had come, and asked who was replacing Captain Simon during his absence, they told me no one was authorized to issue a visitor's pass while Captain Simon was away.

In the meantime the date for sentencing had been postponed once again because a new Judge Advocate had been appointed to handle the case.

On November 7 - the eleventh day after the trial - I called again at the office of Captain Simon in the Hadik Barracks, only to find total confusion. The doorman told me it was pointless entering the building because as far as he knew everyone had already gone. Certainly the roar of the Russian guns was increasing even as we talked; the mass flight of the Fascists to the west had begun. But I insisted upon going to Captain Simon's office on the chance that he might still be there; and after a great deal of persuasion the porter agreed to let me enter the building and try the Captain's office.

I explained to the officer that I desperately wanted the visitor's permit. The officer answered that Simon had been transferred the previous day to Margit Boulevard Military Prison (the Gestapo prison) and gave me the number of the Captain's office there. Then, glancing at his watch, he added, "You had better hurry." I understood this last to mean the Captain would soon be leaving his office and that if I wanted to catch him I should move fast.

I reached Margit Boulevard at about 10:30. It was quite and comparatively deserted. After wandering up and down the corridors of the seemingly deserted building, I found the right office. At 11:45 Captain Simon returned to his office. I followed him in, introduced myself, and asked for a visitor's pass.

"The case no longer has anything to do with me," he answered, apparently ill at ease. "Since when?" I asked. "Since yesterday," he answered. "Then who is in charge of the case?" "Idon't know." "Who is authorized to give me a visitor's permit?" "I don't know." "Shall I go to the Conti Street Prison and ask the warden for one?" "You can. Go there. Try."

© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
All rights reserved.