The disappearance of Jacobo Grinberg in 1991 caused much concern among the Jewish community in Argentina. The young man disappeared after he was abducted by a group of unknown men who were masked and armed. In September 1991, three masked men entered the home of Jacobo Grinberg and his wife, Sara Felman. They took them to an abandoned warehouse where they were held captive for 20 days and tortured them with electric shocks, beatings, and psychological pressure. The kidnappers asked for a ransom of 6 million pesos ($ 350,000). The couple refused to pay it but managed to escape two weeks later when their abductors left them unattended. A few months after their release, Sara Felman found her husband dead in their apartment in a suburb of Buenos Aires. According to police investigations at the time, he had committed suicide because of the mental trauma he suffered during the captivity. However, this version did not convince anyone, as there were no traces that would indicate that the young man had been struggling against anything when he died.
Who was Jacobo Grinberg?
Jacobo Grinberg was born in 1956 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His family was originally from Lithuania, which is why he also had Israeli citizenship. From an early age, he was interested in politics and social issues. In the early 1980s, he became part of the Jewish youth movement, where he met Sara Felman, a fellow activist. The couple married in 1987, and moved to Israel with their three children. In Israel, Grinberg was part of the leadership of the Argentine Jewish community and was a member of the Kehillat Jeshurun synagogue in Jerusalem. He was also one of the founders of the BAJADEM (Association of Jews from Argentina in Israel). In 1991, he returned to Buenos Aires, his birthplace, where he continued his political and social activities, becoming a key figure in the struggle against the Argentinian dictatorship.
The kidnapping of Jacobo Grinberg
On September 5, 1991, the couple was kidnapped by a group of men who entered their home in the San Isidro neighborhood of Buenos Aires and took them to an abandoned warehouse near the airport. According to Felman, the kidnappers were looking for a man called “Juan”, whom they accused of committing fraud against them, although they had no evidence. This was the first in a series of inconsistencies that would later be discovered in the investigation. The kidnappers kept the couple in that warehouse for 20 days, during which time they were tortured with electric shocks, beatings, and psychological pressure. They were asked for a ransom of 6 million pesos ($ 350,000). The couple refused to pay it but managed to escape two weeks later when their abductors left them unattended. After their release, Felman and Grinberg reported the incident to the police, who launched an investigation.
Is it a suicide or a murder?
However, the couple’s version of the facts turned out to be altered. They reported that they had escaped thanks to a chance event: the kidnappers had given them a radio that they could use to listen to the news, and Felman used that radio to contact a friend and ask him to report the kidnapping to the authorities. The authorities then managed to arrest the kidnappers and free their hostages, although the man they were looking for, “Juan”, was not there. Felman and Grinberg were brought to a hospital where they were treated for their injuries and released. Two weeks later, Grinberg’s wife found him dead in their apartment. According to police investigations at the time, he had committed suicide because of the mental trauma he suffered during the captivity. However, this version did not convince anyone, as there were no traces that would indicate that the young man had been struggling against anything when he died.
Grinberg’s death coincided with the final phase of the democratic transition in Argentina. The country was preparing to hold its first democratic presidential elections in 16 years and the return of Jacobo Grinberg, who had become one of the symbols of the human rights movement, would have strengthened the movement in the country. His death generated concern among the Jewish community of Argentina, as well as among human rights activists, and caused many questions about Grinberg’s suicide. His wife, Sara Felman, was not able to maintain her version of the facts and was found to be psychologically unstable. The police investigation was concluded and the case was closed as a suicide. However, in June 2018, on the 25th anniversary of Grinberg’s death, his family reopened the case, seeking an investigation into the possible abduction and murder of the young leader of the Jewish community in Argentina.