Haviva Reik

Haviva Reik was one of 32 Jewish parachutists from British-ruled Palestine sent by the Jewish Agency and Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) on military missions in Nazi-occupied Europe.

She was born in 1914 in Slovakia. In 1939 she immigrated to Palestine, where she joined Kibbutz Ma'anit and later enlisted in the Palmach, the elite strike forces of the Hagana underground military organization.

The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) asked the Palmach if they could assign people with a prior knowledge of Central Europe for special operations beyond enemy lines. The call was open to women as well as men. Reik was one of the young women accepted. After joining the SOE, she participated in specialist training, including a parachuting course.

In her native Slovakia, an uprising of partisans and resistance groups was in progress in 1944 against the puppet government, aiming to detach Slovakia from the Axis. The partisans made considerable gains, and on August 28 the Nazis decided to occupy Slovakia and eliminate the uprising.

After their training, Reik and three others, Stephan Rafael (Rafi) Reiss, Zvi Ben-Yaakov, and Haim Hermesh (Kassaf) waited in Bari, Italy to be parachuted into Slovakia. However, the British authorities refused to send a woman behind enemy lines for a military operation. In September 1944, Reik hitched a ride with a group of American pilots and joined the others. At the end of the month, a fifth parachutist, Abba Berdiczew, joined them, bringing radio equipment.

In Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Haviva and the others engaged in relief and rescue activities. They organized a community centre for refugees, and facilitated the escape of Jewish children to Hungary and thence to Palestine. Through their connections with partisan, they helped rescue allied POWs.

On Oct. 27, 1944, the Germans occupied Banska Bystrica. Few days later, Haviva and the other parachutists, together with about 40 Jewish partisans, were captured by Ukrainian Waffen SS troops. On Nov. 20 the Germans shot most of the captive Jews, including Reik, Ben-Yaakov and Reiss. Abba Berdiczew was deported to the Mauthausen death camp and later killed. Haim Chermesh escaped, fought with the partisans, and later returned to Palestine.

On 10 September 1952, Haviva Reik's remains were buried in Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem along with those of Hannah Szenes and Rafi Reiss. Kibbutz Lahavot Haviva, the Givat Haviva institute, an Aliya Bet (illegal immigration during the British Mandate of Palestine) ship, and numerous streets are named after her.

The stamp commemorating Haviva Reik was issued in 1988. It was designed by R. Beckman.