Patrolman Wolf H. Silberstein is one of two members of the New York City Police Department whom Police Commissioner O’Ryan has selected to receive the department medal of honor, the highest award of the force for “extraordinary heroism at imminent risk of life.”
The department annually rewards a small group of its members for unusual bravery. This year a total of twenty-two men will receive citations of varying degrees.
Silberstein resides at 194 Hooper street, Brooklyn, and is attached to the Sixty-ninth Precinct in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
The story of his heroism last November, which won him the medal of honor, is dramatic and exciting, but Patrolman Silberstein told it quietly and with genuine modesty. He seemed reluctant to discuss the incident at all.
“It was in a licensed pool room, while I was off duty and in civilian clothes,” he explained. “The place is on the East Side, at 387 Grand Street. I was talking to some friends.
“In walked three men with revolvers in their hands. They ordered those who were in the room â€”about thirty-five altogetherâ€”to ‘move back against the wall and hold your hands up.’ While I was moving back with the others I drew my service revolver. One of the bandits had jumped onto a chair in the rear of the room and stood facing the crowd, brandishing his revolver.
“At this time I stepped away from the crowd and fired a shot at the bandit on the chair. He doubled up, stepped off the chair, and I fired another shot. He then ran along the wall opposite me, endeavoring to escape. I followed. When he was near the door I had to fire a third time, after which I apprehended the bandit and took his revolver.”
Patrolman Silberstein had omitted a description of the actions of the other two hold-up men during his gun battle with the third man. When reminded about them, he said casually:
“Well, they fired a number of shots at me. None, however, took effect.”
The department’s official record, usually matter-of-fact, is more descriptive and colorful than the hero’s own account. It says:
“At about 9:10 p. m., November 18, 1933, while off duty in civilian clothes and in a pool parlor on the second floor at 387 Grand street, Manhattan, with thirty or forty civilians, was accosted by three hold-up men, each armed with a revolver. Patrolman Silberstein, displaying the highest courage and a disregard of any danger, went into immediate action, drawing his service revolver, stepping away from the patrons to prevent injury to them, and fired at one of the hold-up men who was standing on a chair in the rear of the premises facing the crowd and brandishing a revolver. The bullet from Patrolman Silberstein’s revolver struck and fatally wounded this hold-up man, who was then disarmed and arrested.”
BORN ON EAST SIDE
Silberstein told of his family and his education.
“I realized a childhood ambition when I became a policeman,” he said. “I never had another ambition.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.