When 1930s Jewish mobsters beat up Nazis in the streets of America
‘Gangsters vs. Nazis’ book tells how a New York judge secretly directed mafia bosses Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel to recruit an army of Jewish thugs to intimidate antisemites
Once things were underway in New York, Perlman reached out to Al Capone’s associate Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik in Chicago and asked him to do in the Windy City what Lansky was doing in the Big Apple. Key to the Chicago operation were Jewish boxers, including champion Barney Ross, as well as blond, blue-eyed Jewish journalist Herb Brin who went to Bund meetings undercover and collected valuable intelligence.
In New Jersey, Perlman relied on mob boss and bootlegger extraordinaire Abner “Longie” Zwillman. In turn, Zwillman looked to his pal ex-boxer and gym owner Nat Arno for help in recruiting Jewish tough guys. The ever-generous Zwillman covered all costs incurred these “Minutemen,” who saw themselves as the elite fighting force of the Revolutionary War.
In Middle America, the problem was not the Bund so much as William Dudley Pelley‘s Silver Legion. Many of the card-carrying 15,000 Silver Shirters and their supporters lived in Minnesota. Davie “The Jew” Berman, who ran the gambling scene in Minneapolis, was Perlman’s man. Berman even cooperated with rival Isadore “Kid Cann” Blumenfeld for this mission.
“Berman told Perlman it would be his honor to slap those Silver Shirt assholes around,” Benson wrote.
But with the Bund and Silver Shirts active in LA by the late 1930s, Perlman called up Ben “Bugsy” Siegel and Mickey Cohen to take care of business there.
By 1939, the Jewish gangsters had pounded enough Nazis to ensure that a significant number of them quit attending meetings, or at least went underground. The gangsters’ actions had also emboldened ordinary Jews to protest and take action.
The story of Jewish gangsters beating up American Nazis was largely forgotten. When asked why this happened, Benson said he thought it was because of America’s entry into World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The Bund, Silver Front and similar organizations were outlawed and some of their leaders were interred as dangerous aliens.