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Tuesday, April 13 at 10 p.m. – Independent Lens "Blessed Is the Match "

(Rochester, NY) Hannah Senesh was only 22 when she parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe in an effort to save the Jews of Hungary, but she had already left behind a body of literary work consisting of poems and diaries that would inspire readers for generations to come. Narrated by Academy Award® nominee Joan Allen, Blessed is the Match is the first feature documentary to bring to life this remarkable Holocaust heroine through interviews, eyewitness accounts, rare family photographs, dramatic re creations, and the writings of Hannah and her mother Catherine Senesh. The film retraces Hannah’s perilous mission, reconstructs her defiant months in a
Gestapo prison during the summer of 1944, and looks back on the life of a talented and complex girl who came of age in a world descending into madness. Underneath the dramatic events of Hannah’s life story lies the bedrock of the devoted love between a mother and daughter, who would each, in turn, try to save the other. Directed, written, and produced by Roberta Grossman and hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Blessed Is the Match airs Tuesday, April 13 at 10 p.m. on WXXI- TV (DT 21.1 / cable 1011 and 11).

In 1944, Hannah Senesh, an emigrant to British-controlled Palestine, joined a mission to rescue Jews — including her mother — trapped in her native Hungary. Shockingly, it was the only military rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust. Hannah parachuted behind enemy lines, was captured, tortured, and ultimately executed. Incredibly, her mother Catherine witnessed the entire ordeal — first as a prisoner with Hannah and later as her advocate, braving the bombed-out streets of Budapest in a desperate attempt to save her daughter.

While Hannah Senesh is a figure of great renown in Israel, she is largely unknown in the rest of the world. The filmmakers interviewed the few remaining survivors who knew Hannah — her classmates at a girls’ school in
Budapest, her fellow kibbutz members in Palestine, and prisoners from Hannah’s time in a Gestapo jail in the summer of 1944. The filmmakers were also given unprecedented access to the Senesh family archive, including
hundreds of unpublished letters and over 1,300 never-before-seen photos of remarkable quality.

Blessed Is the Match honors Hannah’s legacy, and captures her motivations. It also illuminates her faults as well as her strengths, in an effort to explain why she chose to act against such monolithic evil. “I first read Hannah’s diary in junior high and was captivated by her courage and touched by her vulnerability,” says director Roberta Grossman. “Later, as a history student at UC Berkeley, where I wrote my senior thesis on the Nazi SS, Hannah’s story continued to inspire me. Why? She fought back. She chose to act by joining a noble, against-all-odds mission. Yet, by the time I had the opportunity to make the film years later, I was a mother, closer in age to Hannah’s mother Catherine than to Hannah. Heroines are hard to relate to, but a mother who had to watch her brilliant, strong-willed daughter make choices that would ultimately cost her life, that is something gripping and universal.”

Pictured: Senesh and soldier, Palestine, 1943
Credit: Hannah Senesh Legacy Foundation


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