Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Zofia Yamaika : 1925-1943 | Mala Zimetbaum : 1922-1944
Biographical Sketches - Haviva Reik: 1914-1944
Like Hannah Senesh, Haviva volunteered for a special parachutist unit of the Palmah whose mission was to assist in the rescue of the Jews in the country of her birth. Haviva was born in the Slovakian village of Shayo Hasso, and grew up in the Carpathian mountain region of Banska- Bystrica. She found the answer to her quest for Jewish identity and ideology in Zionism. After the annexation of Slovakia by Hungary in 1938, she became deeply involved, through the Jewish National Fund and the Zionist Organization of Slovakia, in rescue activities and in the efforts to get Slovakian Jews out to Palestine. She left Slovakia for Palestine in Decembr 1939, and joined Kibbutz Maanit. Her life in Palestine involved agricultural work and the use of her organizational skills in efforts to improve the lot of working women.
When news came to Palestine of the horrors occurring in Europe and 1942 and 1943, Haviva, already a member of the Palmah, volunteered for a mission in which Jewish fighters would be parachuted behind enemy lines in Nazi-held territory to rescue Jews and help them to resist and get to Palestine. After intensive training in Palestine Haviva and the Slovak group waited in Bari, Italy to be parachuted into Slovakia. There, the British authorities refused to send a woman behind enemy lines for a military operation. In September 1944, Haviva Reik hitched a ride with a group of American pilots who were flying to Bansk-Bystrica and joined her three comrades there.
In Banska-Bystrica Haviva threw herself into relief and rescue activities, organizing a soup kitchen and community centre for refugees, facilitating the escape of Jewish children to Hungary and then to Palestine, and through the connection of the parachutists with partisan and resistance groups, assisted in the rescue of allied POWs. Haviva's work was humanitarian; it was also imbued with Zionist-nationalist Jewish ideals which were a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak and terrible reality.
When the Germans occupied Banska-Bystrica in late October 1944, Haviva and the other parachutists escaped with 40 Jewish participants and built a camp in the mountains, but they were captured after a few days by Ukrainian SS troops of the Galicia division. Three of the parachutists were interrogated, tortured and sentenced to death as spies. Haviva Reik was shot on November 20, 1944, her body thrown into a mass grave with those of 250 other Jews and Gypsies. On September 10, 1952, Haviva's remains were buried in Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.