Joseph Levinson was born in March 1917. He grew up in the small town (shtetl) Vishéy (Veisiejai) in Dzūkija (Southern Lithuania). He received a degree in engineering from the Technical Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Joseph Levinson fought the Nazis as a serviceman of the 16th Lithuanian Division during World War II and was seriously injured. He is a founding figure of Vilnius’s ‘Green House’ and a historian of the Lithuanian Holocaust.
In 1941, during the massacre of the Jews in Lithuania, his father and relatives were murdered in the village of Katkiškė near Lazdéy (Lazdijai).
Joseph Levinson was the chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s Commission for Maintenance of Jewish Cemeteries and Sites of Massacre. In the early 1990s he spearheaded the Jewish community’s and museum’s work for the preservation and respectful marking of both old Jewish cemeteries and mass grave sites. It was at his initiative that the Lithuanian Jewish Cultural Society (later reorganized into the Lithuanian Jewish Community) and the State Jewish Museum presented the then Lithuanian Supreme Council with a draft resolution on restoring and preserving the Jewish cemeteries and sites of Jewish massacre. The resolution was passed at the end of 1990.
J. Levinson devoted many years to organizing and supervising the restoration and maintenance of both the mass graves and old cemeteries. The material he had collected about the sites of these mass killings was published in Skausmo knyga (The Book of Sorrow) with texts in Lithuanian, English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. He is also the author of another major work on the Holocaust in Lithuania The Shoah in Lithuania.
J. Levinson was honored for his many contributions in London’s Central Synagogue at a major event on 1 September 2010 that was attended by a UK Government minister and the Israeli Ambassador.