Rosenberg-Friedman, Lilach. “National Mission, Feminine Identity and Female Leadership in a Mythical Masculine Organization: The Story of Ada Sereni, Head of the Mossad: The Story of Ada Sereni, Head of the Mossad Le’aliyah in Italy during the 1940s.” Women’s Studies 43.5 (2014): 589-618.
Before the establishment of the Mossad, Israel’s mythological secret service agency (formed in 1949), another secretive organization operated in the region. This organization, known as the Mossad Le’Aliyah Bet (henceforth the Mossad), was responsible for helping Holocaust survivors immigrate illegally to Palestine. Few people are aware that a woman, Ada Sereni, headed the organizations’ important Italian division from July 1945 to May 1948, an intense period during the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel. This article seeks to present the characteristics of Ada Sereni’s actions, the new identity she developed during this period, and her complex leadership style.
Under treaties of 1944 and 1945 the USSR permitted the departure of hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens, many of them Jews, who had found themselves on Soviet territory after the annexation of eastern Poland or who had fled there subsequently. In addition to relieving the USSR of a potentially unreliable group and increasing the population of its future satellite state, another consideration in permitting a large-scale emigration may have been Stalin’s desire to gain sympathy in the West during negotiations over Poland’s future borders, and thus to neutralize one basis for the hostility promoted by the London-based Polish government-in-exile. Stalin’s related willingness for Poland’s new Communist government to permit the emigration of Jews to Palestine likely manifested the dictator’s interest in creating difficulties for the British Empire and gaining influence in a possible future Jewish state.