Spencer Quinn writes:
“I believe in America.”
These are the first words spoken in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 landmark film, The Godfather. They are spoken by an Italian immigrant, a mortician, who is coming to his local mafia boss for some extra-legal assistance. The double meaning is clear. In America, one can succeed honestly or dishonestly. Either way, there is a lot to believe in.
Jewish-American crime boss Ludwig “Tarzan” Fainberg – pimp, racketeer, drug-dealer, and arms smuggler – had little use for such literary niceties. For him, there was only one meaning of America. “I love this country,” he once enthused. “It’s so easy to steal here!”
Anecdotes like this one populate much of Hervé Ryssen’s The Jewish Mafia, an in-depth account of Jewish underworld crime throughout the centuries. Written in 2008 and finally translated into English from the French by Carlos W. Porter in 2016, The Jewish Mafia focuses mostly on the twentieth and twenty-first century misdeeds of diaspora Jews who organized to take advantage of the gentiles that surround them. Jews have victimized other Jews both in Israel and abroad, and Ryssen makes sure to cover that as well.
Throughout the book, however, Ryssen consistently brings home three central themes. One is the silence with which Jewish organized crime is received by the major news and media organs in West. It’s to the point where most are unaware that the Jewish stereotype of the sleazy, underhanded criminal could ever be found outside of Dickens novels and Shakespeare plays. Since the Second World War, there has been a cover-up of this “invisible mafia,” a “Chose-merta,” if you will. And Ryssen does what he can to pull the curtain back to reveal it.
The second theme is the sameness of it all. When there is money to be made, Jews will find a way to make it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a shtetl near Odessa, a sugar plantation in South America, a gold mine in South Africa, or a strip club in Florida, Jews have a genius for profit, and if given an inch they will take a mile. Ryssen makes clear that most Jews are not like this. He also makes clear that of the Jews who are, many possess scruples and stay within the bounds of the law. But the ones who don’t keep cropping up everywhere throughout history doing pretty much the same things: stealing, lying, bribing, pimping, smuggling, embezzling, and dealing in contraband, among other wrongdoings. It’s more than a trend.
Sadly, it’s an absolute. Further, it’s one that powerful elites would prefer not be disclosed. Despite being put on trial thirteen times and imprisoned for three months in 2015 for his writing (and despite how journalist Paul Klebnikov was “murdered by the Jewish mafia” after writing a book exposing how Jewish gangsters devastated the former Soviet Union in the 1990s), Ryssen does the brave and dangerous work of disclosing it.
Ryssen’s ultimate theme is more meta. As often as possible, he cites Jewish sources, which makes many of his points difficult to impugn.
Ryssen starts off with perhaps the most well-known instances of Jewish crime: the American gangsters of the early- to mid-twentieth century. Financial genius Meyer Lansky, contract killer and head of “Murder Incorportated” Louis Buchalter, and celebrity psychopath Bugsy Siegel are the most famous examples, but there are many more. Hand-in-hand with the Sicilian mafia, Jewish gangsters co-created what became known as “the Syndicate” in 1929, the first true example of organized crime in America. Of the “Big Seven” permanent members of the Syndicate, four were Sicilians (including “Lucky” Luciano) and three were Jews. In fact, prior to the formation of the Syndicate, Luciano enlisted Siegel and other Jewish killers to bump off Salvatore Maranzano, the sole head of the Sicilian mob (the Capo di Tutti Capi), precisely because Maranzano didn’t want to join forces with Jews…
Porn gets its own chapter as well. Ryssen describes the Jews’ historical links to the skin trade, from Jack Kahane’s publishing of obscene novels in the 1930s, to Francis Mischkind’s spearheading of the porno cinema revolution in 1970s France, to Gary Kremen and Stephen Cohen’s bringing of porn to the Internet in the 1990s. Tied with porn, of course, is prostitution, and Ryssen takes us along the nearly 150-year-long connection between Jews and the White slave trade. Despite their small numbers, the Jews were major players in this hideous market from the late nineteenth century until the Second World War. Their enterprises took them from the Far East and India to Turkey, Europe, Israel, South America, and the United States. Often, Jewish brothel owners were shunned by their own kind, and so formed their own, separate Jewish communities. Most infamous is the Zwi Migdal of Argentina, which set up its own synagogues and graveyards, since the legitimate Jewish communities refused to recognize them. While it is true that, prior to the Second World War, the majority of the girls being victimized were Jewish, after the fall of the Soviet Union, that honor fell to Slavic girls who had previously lived behind the Iron Curtain.