November 20, 1944
Haviva Reik and two other paratroopers from British Mandatory Palestine are among about 40 Jewish fighters executed by the Nazis after the suppression of an uprising in Slovakia.
Reik, who was born Emma Reik in the Slovakian village of Radvan, made aliyah in 1939 and enlisted with the Haganah’s elite Palmach. She was among more than 30 soldiers sent by the Jewish Agency for paratrooper training with British special forces who were deployed in Axis-occupied areas of Europe late in World War II.
But when Rafael Reiss, Zvi Ben-Yaakov and Haim Hermesh were dropped into Slovakia in the late summer of 1944 to work with Jewish partisans, the British refused to carry a woman behind enemy lines. The Germans had occupied Slovakia on Aug. 28 to suppress the uprising against the Nazi-aligned puppet government. Reik instead hitched a ride with American pilots flying into Banska Bystrica, where she grew up. She joined the other paratroopers Sept. 21, and a fifth member of their Jewish Agency group, Abba Berdiczew, arrived with radio equipment by the end of the month.
Reik and the others participated in rescue and relief activities, opened a soup kitchen and a community center for refugees, and helped Jewish children escape to Palestine via Hungary.
The Germans captured Banska Bystrica on Oct. 27. The paratroopers escaped with about 40 Jewish partisans into the mountains but were captured by Ukrainian Waffen SS troops within a few days.
While Reik, Ben-Yaakov and Reiss are among the Jewish prisoners executed Nov. 20, Berdiczew is deported to the Mauthausen camp, where he is killed. Hermesh escapes, keeps fighting the Nazis in Slovakia and eventually returns to Palestine.
Reik’s remains are buried in the Mount Herzl military cemetery in September 1952.