Joseph Holzer was born on April 8, 1925 in Punitz, Austria. At the age of thirteen, in 1938, he and his family were forced to leave Austria due to the persecution of Jews under the Nazi regime. They moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where they would stay for around twenty-two months, before they would eventually make their way to the United States on May 28, 1940.
Joseph’s father, Isadore, was a veteran of World War I, while his mother, Gisella, worked as a dressmaker. In the interview, Mr. Holzer discusses how grateful the family felt to have escaped from Europe before Nazi Germany implemented the Final Solution.
Mr. Holzer served in the U.S. Army from August 11, 1943 to January 6, 1946. He completed his basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, before then finishing his advanced training at Fort Ord, California. Mr. Holzer served as a tank driver in D Company of the 4410 Battalion in the First Cavalry Division in New Guinea. He saw combat against Japanese forces in the Philippines in 1944 and then participated in occupation duty in Japan. On January 8, 1946 at Fort Meade, Maryland, Mr. Holzer was discharged from the Army as a technician fifth grade.
After the war, Mr. Holzer stayed with his younger sister for a short period of time in New York, where he met and then married his wife. Mr. Holzer worked for an embroidery business, then for a firm called Rosenstock, before he settled in and worked with his father-in-law in the fruit business. He became a manager at Key Food Supermarkets and raised three children.