Sneh, Simja

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SNEH, SIMJA (1914–1999), Argentinean author. Born in Pulawy, Poland, Sneh received a Jewish education in his youth and later studied history and philosophy at the Free University of Warsaw. He worked as a teacher and journalist. With the emergence of Nazism and Hitler's military aggression, Sneh joined the Polish army and fought under General Anders and with the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in Italy. He arrived in Argentina under precarious circumstances and without papers. Nevertheless, he had an active career as a teacher of Yiddish and Hebrew in the Jewish school system of Buenos Aires. In addition, he worked as a journalist for a variety of Jewish and mainstream newspapers and periodicals. He wrote in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Spanish and his works earned him recognition, praise, and several prestigious awards. Sneh worked for many years in the Department of Culture of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina – amia, the Ashkenazi community in Buenos Aires. He was present in the community building on July 18, 1994, when a terrorist bomb destroyed it, killing over 80 people. Sneh survived the attack and died of natural causes in April 1999.

Sneh's El pan y la sangre (1977) contains 12 short stories, which are remarkable for the way they recreate specific moments and events. Perhaps the most outstanding quality in Sneh's texts is the fact that they are not merely the stuff of fiction. His writing comes from his own experience, which makes the horrific realism contained in them all the more penetrating. That is not to say that all the stories in the collection are literal recreations of actual events he lived through and witnessed. However, his experience as a Shoah survivor serves as the inspiration for the characters, places, and circumstances of which he writes.

Sneh's true masterpiece is to be found in his subsequent work completed just two years prior to his death. Sin rumbo constitutes a truly monumental undertaking. Published between 1993 and 1997 (in Spanish), the six-volume text is over 1,600 pages in length. It was originally written in Yiddish as a trilogy and published in serial form in the Yiddish periodical Di Presse in Buenos Aires. One-hundred fifty weekly chapters appeared between 1947 and 1952. The first volume was published as a book under the title of Na' Venad (1952). It is part testimonial narrative, part memoir, part novel, and part historical document. It comprises a substantial social and historical record of the Holocaust, and is certainly the single most important Holocaust work written in Spanish. Together, El pan y la sangre and Sin rumbo constitute a remarkable legacy of an even more remarkable human being who overcame incredible odds and who left the world a gift of momentous significance.

[Darrell B. Lockhart (2nd ed.)]