This Day in Jewish History 1935: A Jewish Mobster Is Gunned Down in a Newark Toilet

Dutch Schultz was killed by his own colleagues who thought his plan to slay a prosecutor was a murder too far.

Dutch Schultz mugshot from his only arrest in 1931. WikiCommons

It was 10:30 PM of October 23, 1935 when two members of Murder Inc. gunned down the Jewish mobster Dutch Schultz in the bathroom of Palace Chophouse in Newark. A bullet struck him below the heart. Afraid to die in the toilet, he dragged himself outside, collapsed on a table, and expired later in agony.

Schultz's chief henchman Abe Landau, his accountant Otto Berman, and his bodyguard Bernard “Lulu” Rosencrantz were also murdered in the same attack.

Dutch Schultz had made his fortune selling beer during the Prohibition, for which pains he was indicted for tax evasion by his nemesis, the prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Schultz requested the blessing of the so-called Commission (an informal ruling committee of the heads of each mob family) to kill Dewey, but the Commission balked, suspecting that assassinating a prosecutor would attract too much attention to the mafia. Dutch stormed out of the meeting, accusing them of trying to “feed him to the law”, and reiterated his intention to do away with Dewey – which led the Commission to decide to kill Schultz instead.

Not a headline name, Flegeinhemer

Dutch Schultz was born as Arthur Flegenheimer on August 6, 1902, to Herman and Emma (Neu) Flegenheimer, who hailed from Gemany. Still a child when his father reportedly abandoned the family, Schultz grew up with his mother and sister in a low-end apartment in the Bronx. His mother took in people’s laundry to make ends meet.

By eighth grade, Dutch had dropped out of school and was doing small jobs to support the family. However, by his teens, he had joined a burglar gang. At 18, he was caught breaking into an apartment and was sent to Welfare Island. Due to bad behavior was transferred to a work farm in Westhampton – from which he escaped.

In his first, and his only, arrest, Arthur used the alias Charles Harmon. After a year in prison, he emerged as Dutch Schultz.

By 1928, Schultz was selling around $2 million a year in beer to speakeasies in the Bronx and upper Manhattan. He lived the thrill of gangster life, had charisma, a legion of followers and an apartment on 5th Avenue. In little time, he had become a household name, for which he thanked his alias – often joking that "Flegenheimer" was too long for newspaper headlines.

Dutch Schultz' headstone. He was buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester County, New York, U.S.A. WikiCommons

'Nothing personal'

Schultz’ Jewish mob had a reputation as the only ones who could compete with the Italians. His accountant, Berman, is known for coining the phrase “nothing personal, just business.”

As for Schultz himself, he was known for his short temper, “someone who would kill for no reason,” and for easily resorting to violence. He killed his friend Jules Modgilewsky ("Julie Martin") for skimming ill-gotten gains from shaking down restaurateurs, by shooting him in the mouth.

At the peak of his criminal career, Schultz’ typical monthly profit was $54,126 (equivalent to about $780,623 today). Perhaps fortunately for Dutch, he didn’t live to see past the abolition of Prohibition, but even so, the changing economic climate forced him to amplify his business. While also selling alcohol to restaurants, and extorting them, he expanded into the numbers racket.

During his crime career, Schultz stood trial exactly once (pursued by Dewey), for tax-dodging. The case ended in a hung jury, following which the trial started anew – and he was acquitted. Outraged, Fiorello la Guardia, mayor of New York at the time, banished the mob boss from the city. Schultz moved his operation to Newark, working in a hotel two blocks away from Palace Chophouse.

When the ambulance picked up Schultz after the shootout, he slipped the medic $10,000 in cash to ensure the best care. After surgery, when it seemed he would live, the doctor left the money by Schultz’ bed, in fear of being indebted to him.

Live he did not. Schultz's death was slow and painful: He writhed and babbled for 22 hours. The stream of consciousness he spoke in his last hours were transcribed by police, and have been used by artists as inspiration for their work. Some think of it as nonsense, others the words of an evil genius – for instance: “Oh, Oh, dog Biscuit, and when he is happy he doesn’t get snappy.”

The mobster died of peritonitis, an infection caused by the rust-coated bullet, at age 33.