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Biography - Enzo Sereni

Biography - Enzo Sereni

Enzio Sereni (1905-Nov 18, 1944) was an Italian Zionist, founder of Kibbutz Brenner, scholar, advocate of Jewish-Arab coexistence and ultimately a commando who was parachuted into Nazi-occupied Italy in WW II, captured by the Germans and executed in Dachau concentration camp.

Sereni was born in Rome . His father was physician to the king of Italy. He grew up in an assimilated household but became a Zionist as a teenager and was one of the first Italian Zionists. After obtaining his Phd. from the University of Rome, he emigrated to mandate Palestine in 1927.† He worked in the orange groves in Rehovot and soon helped found Kibbutz Givat Brenner. As he was an enthusiastic socialist, Sereni was also active in the Histadrut. He was a pacifist who advocated coexistence with the Arabs and integration of Jewish and Arab society.

Sereni was sent to Europe in 1931-1934 to help bring people to Palestine through the Youth Aliyah, and was arrested briefly by the Gestapo.†He helped to organize the Hechalutz movement in Nazi Germany and was also involved in helping to smuggle money and people out of Germany. Sereni was also sent to the United States to help organize the Zionist movement there. During World War II,† he joined the British Army, and was involved n disseminating anti-fascist propaganda in Egypt. The British sent him to Iraq, and† Sereni spent part of his time organizing clandestine Aliya (immigration to Palestine). †Sereni got in trouble with his British superior officers for his Zionist views and was imprisoned† briefly for forging passports.

Sereni then helped organize the parachute unit of the Special Operations Executive (SOE)† that sent agents into occupied Europe. Of about 250 volunteer trainees, about 110 were selected for training, and 33 were actually parachuted into Europe, including Sereni, despite his relatively advanced age. On May 15, 1944 he was parachuted into Northern Italy but was captured immediately. According to records, he was shot in Dachau concentration camp on November 18, 1944. .Other famous martyrs who parachuted into Europe with this unit include Hannah Senesh and Haviva Reich. Kibbutz Nezer Sereni is named for him.

Sereni wrote several books and numerous articles. His books:

Mekorot Hafashizm Haitalki (Sources of Italian Fascism) 1951.

Arabs and Jews in Palestine, 1936.

He-Aviv Hakadosh (Holy Spring) 1947.

A brief impression of Sereni by Ben Halpern, posted at http://www.habonimdror.org/resources/adventures/ENZO%20SERENII.htm , states:

Sereni was, of course, a fighter in a certain sense. He had a firm viewpoint, and a strong sense of the direction in which he wished to go. He threw himself with unlimited devotion-perhaps the proper word is abandon-into the cause he wished to serve. He never counted costs-one of the things, perhaps, which set him apart from many comrades was that in certain things, he had less need than they to count costs. A scion of a rather wealthy, prominent Roman Jewish family, with roots in Italy as far back as 70 A.D. according to repute, and with assured status in the academic and professional society of contemporary Rome, Sereni enjoyed many elements of ultimate security which enabled him to be not only daring, but one might even say a daredevil, in all his dangerous missions for the Histadrut. Others smuggled Jewish money out of Nazi Germany but I am sure no one ever did it with as much assurance and enjoyment as Sereni.

The same lusty combativeness marked his fights for his ideas within the Histadrut. Opponents often mistook his vehemence for vindictiveness; never were they more wrong. In the most furious argument, Sereni remained detached and capable of appreciating an opposing view. This, indeed, gave him another formidable advantage in debate which only increased the confusion and unfounded suspicions of many opponents. In the utmost heat of contention, Sereni was basically cool. He boiled rapidly but only on the surface. It is true that he used his opponents' lower resistance to fire deliberately. He was indeed a man whom an opponent had to know to love.


†Enzo was always a strong adherent of the idea of a Jewish-Arab collaboration. But he was an extreme realist as well, and often went to practically fantastic lengths of logic in this matter. I remember when he was in this country, he used to argue that only in the framework of the Arab Federation would it be possible to come to an understanding with the Arab on Eretz Yisrael. He also noted the basic and obvious fact that one element in Arab-Jewish conflict was the great difference in the economic level of the two communities. He therefore argued that the Jewish worker must have the idealism to come down to the Arab level in order to meet him and, of course, raise the standard of living by cooperative methods of consumption and mutual aid. He felt that talking of economic solidarity between the Arab and Jewish worker while keeping the Jewish economic sector at a price and wage level far higher than the Arab's, on the theory that the Arab's must be raised to the Jewish level, meant either deferring such solidarity to an indefinite future if one took the Mapai view, or simple self-delusion if one took the Hashomer Hatzair view.

All these, of course, were in reality tentative statements, experimental hypotheses, so to speak, in Sereni's mind, and we never knew how seriously to take them. What particularly upset the assurance of some of us was that Sereni delighted in the forceful paradox as a method of presentation and loved to shock his youthful audiences out of their received doctrines, if only in order to make them think on their own. But these hypotheses were also formative elements in his own thoughts, and what he thought, he acted. Even the most fleeting adherence to an idea, even to a notion of provisional, one might even say heuristic, value in his life-course, entailed serious consequences in action for Sereni.

See Also: Zionist Parachutists Hannah Senesh Haviva Reik (Chaviva Reich)

More Israeli and Zionist Biographies The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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