Romanian and French poet, critic, and philosopher Benjamin Fondane was a major figure in Jewish existentialism. Known primarily as a symbolist and surrealist, Fondane began his career in 1914 when he was a student at the National High School by publishing patriotic and lyric poetry in literary periodicals. Fondane demonstrated an early dedication to art, declaring that "only poetry could succeed where morality and metaphysics had failed."

Later attracted to Dada and surrealism, Fondane moved to France in 1932, where he became a leading figure in existentialism. Distancing himself from the communist alignments of many other European surrealists, such as André Breton, Fondane worked to establish his own relationship to surrealism. In addition to his poetry, he wrote avant-garde plays and works of philosophy and criticism. 

Following a prolific, multifaceted career, Fondane was deported from France in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz, where, months before the war concluded, he was killed in a gas chamber at the age of 45. 

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