He was born on 28 December 1923 to Jewish parents in Suwałki, Poland, as Joseph or Józef Chasyd.
He was the second youngest of four children. He lost his mother when he was ten and was brought up by his father, Owsiej, who took charge of his career. Josef almost concomitantly started showing a quite timid and reclusive temperament, an introverted nature that worsening accompanied him until his tragic late days.
Nevertheless, since his boyhood he revealed a great musical talent becoming one of the most famous pupils of the celebrated Hungarian maestro Karl Flesch.
He received an honorary diploma in the 1935 at Warsaw’s Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition (won by Ginette Noveau) where also the great David Oistrakh, Henri Temianka and the young Ida Haendel participated. Apparently poor Josef, whose touch was undeniably excellent, suffered a temporary amnesia during his performance, most probably due to his highly emotional disposition.
His depressive and melancholic temper was greatly accentuated by a disillusioned and highly contrasted adolescent romance that blossomed during his sojourn in Spa,
where Karl Flesh used to teach violin summer classes.
It seems that due to the religious differences between the two youths, the love-story was brusquely sedated by their parents.
In 1938 Josef’s father decided to move to Britain where the young prodigy would have started to perform and record. He made a magnificent first appearance in London in 1940 at the age of sixteen. At the Queen’s Hall on December 5th he performed as violin solo with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.
He also started recording with EMI and the celebrated label “His Master’s Voice”. Yet, while performing in London he had another memory drop while playing the Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, unanimously considered one of the most technically complicated pieces of music ever written for violin.
In 1941 he experienced a deep depressive crisis and nervous breakdown and therefore was committed to St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton where he underwent insulin coma therapy and electroconvulsive therapy, unfortunately with very scarce results. Sadly his unparalleled art and music quickly faded away: regrettably his celestial sound fell still and his violin became mute.
In fact after a short dismaying period spent with his father out of the clinic he was eventually diagnosed with an acute case of schizophrenia and committed again, this time to Long Grove Hospital a mental asylum in Epsom, Surrey, which had a wing for Polish civilians.
There he remained for many years until his death caused by a barbarous leucotomy in 1950. Between January 1947 and June 1952, 180 people died as a result of unsuccessful lobotomy in England and Wales. One of these victims was Josef Hassid, age almost 27, one the greatest violinist of all times.