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Woodhaven man is ‘Minority of One’

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“I was a rebel even when I was five years old,” said Henry Chaim Goldberg.

Goldberg, of Woodhaven, was talking about his newly released autobiography, “The Minority of One” at a discussion and book-signing last month at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Forest Hills. He’s scheduled to come to the Barnes & Noble in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15.

“We lived in Warsaw, Poland in the early 1930s, when I bought a candy whistle for a penny. When I tried the whistle, it didn’t work. I asked the owner, a six-foot, four-inch bully, for another one. ‘Listen, you Jew bastard, you had the whistle in your mouth. Get out of my store.’ War was declared between him and me. When he was busy, I overturned the shelves and threw rocks, yelling, “I want my whistle!” Henry Chaim Goldberg won on principle.

“I learned languages by making friends, and listening to the radio. This gave me access to learning the politics of the lands as my family and I were separated many times and I was fleeing each country that was seeking to kill the Jews.”

Goldberg writes that in 1939, the Soviet Union signed a friendship and non-aggression treaty with Hitler’s Germany, making Hitler move toward the West. The Russian army entered Poland at almost the same time the German army attacked, leaving Poland divided between allies. As German occupation increased, a high-ranking German officer stopped his car, stood up and shouted, “Aile Jude werden erschosen! (All Jews are going to be shot!).” This was Goldberg’s first escape, leaving behind his mother, father, two older bothers, Abraham and Shlomo and younger sister, Sally.

“At the age of 13, I learned the local language. I was with my family; my parents in exile. My parents had to work, but I knew that I wasn’t required to. When the commandant came to our house to send me off to work, I blew my top, screamed at him, telling him that he was stupid and ignorant of the law. I told him that the law stated that all children under the age of 16 must attend school. When he pulled a gun on me, I knocked it out of his hand, telling him that he could not shoot a minor. I wrote to the DA’s office, managing to get the letter sent out, despite the commandant.”

The eventual result? Goldberg was sent to school...and so were five girls.

Jews weren’t the only group targeted. During the years of Goldberg’s life in Asian Russia, there were several Koreans, as well. The Koreans were moved from Manchuria, since they were refugees from Korea when Japan occupied. Henry made friends with a Korean girl and learned Korean. He got a taste of business, albeit illegal, when he first traded, then sold bread ration cards, provided by his girlfriend’s brother, Keisha, who had access to an engraving plate and papers.

“I felt that I had too much money,” said Goldberg, “and I would buy clothes and shoes for the college students. My friend Misha had a girlfriend Slave, who was a medical student in her third year. Slava never knew where the money came from. I bought at least 200 pairs of shoes, dresses, socks, and stockings. My brothers used to go through my pockets and take out money. I pretended I didn’t know about it, so not to embarrass them. My parents didn’t know that I was involved in this illegal business."

Henry was caught and sentenced to death. He was pointed out as the leader of a group of criminals, of which only a few were known to him. At the trial, Henry told the judge, “I’m going along with what my friends say about me. Let’s see, we have here lawyers, accountants, and other Polish intellectuals; and here I, with my almost-high school education, made them do whatever I wanted, and those poor Polish intellectuals could not resist. My advice to this great court is that I should receive a light sentence, and all my so-called ‘friends’ should be shot. Nobody needs intellectual idiots. I could bring good ideas and do good for your country. In other words, I could be an asset to society and pay back many times over for the damage I did to this country.”

Goldberg now lives in Woodhaven, where he met his second wife, Lorraine , to whom he has been married for 21 years.

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