10 Things You Need to Know About…Haviva Reik

Resistance fighter

1. Haviva Reik was born in June 1914 in the Slovakian village of Nadabula. One of seven children, she grew up in the Carpathian Mountains.

2. As a young woman, she joined the Zionist Socialist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair and in 1939 made aliyah. She joined Kibbutz Ma’anit, where she coordinated the citrus harvest. Before long, she enlisted in the Palmach.

3. In 1942, the Jewish Agency Defense Department, working in coordination with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), asked the Palmach for volunteers to go behind enemy lines. They needed people who spoke the languages and knew the lands and cultures of Central Europe. Reik signed up. She joined the WAAF and received specialized training from the SOE.

Haiva Reik4. She was with a group to be parachuted into Nazi-controlled Slovakia, but the British balked, refusing to send a woman on a “blind drop.” Determined not to be left behind, she hitched a ride with an American military transport and made her way to the rendezvous. The group set up their operations in Banska Bystrica.

5. An uprising had been planned there against the Nazi-controlled puppet government. Her group helped organize Jewish groups in the resistance. Reik was in charge of a public kitchen that served thousands of refugees; she facilitated the escape of Jewish children to Hungary and thence to Palestine; and she helped rescue Allied pilots who had been shot down. For six weeks, she carried out this double function, organizing Slovakian Jews and aiding Allied airmen.

6. The uprising was delayed, and the Germans advanced on their location in October of 1944. When her group prepared to escape to the mountains, she advocated for taking all the Jews who wanted to go, not just the young and healthy. Along with about forty Slovakian Jews, they set up camp in the forest.

7. The camp was overrun by Ukrainian pro-Nazi collaborators in November 1944. She was captured, executed and buried in a mass grave.

8. After the war, her body was exhumed and buried in a military cemetery in Prague. In September 1952, her remains were brought home and reburied in the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem.

9. She wrote, “Every day we are alive is a gift from the heavens.” An excrutiating truth in her case, and not a bad existential stance for the rest of us.

10. Kibbutz Lahavot Haviva, Givat Haviva Institute, a river, a gerbera flower, a water resevoir, a ship used for (illegal) immigration to Palestine, and numerous streets in Israel are named in her memory.

In southeast Tel Aviv, Haviva Reik Street is located east of the Ayalon River and south of LaGuardia Street.

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