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Guiding Questions:

  • What was the most important thing to happen to Joseph in the 1930s?

Joseph's young adulthood was a tumultuous time, but not necessarily because of the rise of Nazi Germany. In the mid-1930s, when Joseph was about 17, his father became ill. He was sick for a long time. They called it "cancer of the 7th rib," which apparently was a term for stomach or intestinal cancer.  It may also have meant a tumor in the rib. The older brothers, doing what they could, took him to Helsinki, Finland for an operation, to no avail. Abram then stayed in a hospital in Riga and their cousin, who was a doctor, tried to help. 

As one of the younger siblings, most of Joseph's brothers were already married and out of the house. Sam was by now an accomplished watchmaker, Paul was in manufacturing, and Wolf apparently owned some forest land and sold lumber. Harry, meanwhile, was a furrier. This must have made it even harder for Joseph to deal with his father's sickness.

Joseph's mind wasn't only on his father, though. He liked girls (and women) quite a bit and they seemed to like him. He had a serious girlfriend named Tsillah who was fifteen years older than he was. Naturally Joseph's parents did not approve. One night, while his father was ill, Joseph slept over at Tsillah's house and then came into work late. He didn't know that his father had a particularly bad night, but his master barber, Pulvermacher, did since Joseph's sister had stopped by the shop to bring food. When Pulvermacher found out that Joseph had stayed at his girlfriend's house he slapped him!

In 1936, when Joseph was 18 years-old, his father Abram finally succumbed to the cancer and passed away.

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