Sometimes people are capable of righteous deeds from whom this is not at all expected. Think of Oskar Schindler, a successful businessman and a member of the Nazi party, who nevertheless decided at some point to save the lives of Jews who worked at his enterprise. This case is well known. But there is another, no less impressive example.
The legendary American gangster, who at various times was called the mafia accountant and even the boss of bosses, the man with whom AlCapone himself coordinated his actions, the man who made a fortune on bootlegging and created an entire gambling empire, Meyer Lansky – this is whose good deeds are undeservedly forgotten, hiding behind colorful criminal past.
Lansky was the brightest Jewish star in the American criminal underworld. He was born in Grodno, which was once a Polish city, then Russian, and now has become Belarusian. Anti-Semitism flourished there, pogroms were frequent and violent, so the family of the future gangster went to seek salvation in America. The immigration inspector reduced the unpronounceable Polish surname to the optimal version, and the surname Lansky was assigned to young Meyer forever.
I will not enumerate here all the stages of the criminal career of the impudent Jewish bandit, this is not the topic of my article. In addition, just on this issue, you can easily find information if you want. And I want to focus on what few people know.
No matter how notorious a sinner Lansky was, he respected Jewish traditions and considered his connection with the Jewish people important to himself. In the 1930s, when Jews were already being persecuted in Germany, Lansky led a small group of friends to disperse Nazi gatherings in New York to show that not all Jews are ready to endure humiliation. Local Hitler fans feared him like plague.
In 1939, he personally paid for the New York City Hall to accommodate passengers of an entire ship with Jewish refugees from Austria, which the authorities did not want to let into the port. Contrary to all his criminal principles, Lansky agreed to cooperate with the American government during the Second World War, helping in the search for German spies and saboteurs.
After the war, under the scrutiny of the FBI, when it would seem that one should hide his fortune as best as possible, the famous gangster constantly invested heavily in supporting the Zionist movement in British Palestine. He bought and shipped weapons to Haifa for militant Jewish organizations, and then, when Israel was created, regularly transferred 10% of all his income to support it. Before World War II, anti-Semitism was enough in America. And although it did not come to pogroms, Jews were forbidden to enter casinos, many respectable hotels were not recommended to visit some states, for example, Florida. Lansky changed that. By creating the largest hotels and casinos in Cuba, and later in Las Vegas, he fundamentally removed any discriminatory requirements, especially in relation to Jews.
Was Lansky a bandit? Certainly. But he was an ambiguous person, not devoid of generosity and nobility, feeling, unlike most bandits, the need to do good and support those who need protection.
It seems to me that if this does not justify his crimes, it is purely humanly worthy of respect.
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