Born: March 5, 1881, Dolina, Poland
The son of Moses and Sarah Litwak, Josef was born in Dolina, a town in southeastern Poland. Josef came from a religious Jewish family. When he was in his early twenties, he married Mina Schaerf from the nearby town of Vinnitsa just across the Polish border. The couple settled in the industrial city of Lvov, where Josef worked in the family-owned bank. Josef and Mina raised five children.
1933-39: The Litwaks' two youngest children, Fryda and Adela, had finished secondary school and were planning to attend university, but were unable to because the Polish government was enforcing quotas that limited Jewish admissions to the universities. On September 1, 1939, the Germans invaded Poland from the west, and the Soviets invaded from the east 16 days later, splitting the country in two. Lvov was in the Soviet sector.
1940-42: On June 30, 1941, eight days after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, German forces occupied Lvov. Towards the end of the year, most of Lvov's Jews were concentrated in a ghetto. Food in the ghetto was scarce, but Josef refused to eat anything that was not prepared according to Jewish dietary laws, and he became increasingly weaker. In late August 1942, during the biggest deportation roundup in the ghetto, the Germans came for Josef's wife, Mina. Josef insisted on going with her.
Josef and his wife were placed on a transport to the Belzec extermination camp. Josef died in Belzec. He was 61 years old.
Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC