There was only one real Godfather and he was not even Italian but a Jew.
Born in 1902 as Maier Suchowljansky in Grodno, Poland, he achieved lasting fame under the adopted name of Meyer Lansky.
It would have been unheard of for any non-falian to reach the top echelons of Organised Crime let alone a Jew but even though not a member of the Mafia his influence and power has never been rivalled and it is possible that he was the only person to gain full respect across the whole spectrum of La Cosa Nostra.
There was of course inevitable resentment because he was Jewish but at least in the inner circles of the Mafia, he was a man to be trusted and revered not the least because of his brilliant financial acumen coupled with his well disguised ruthlessness.
listen to Meyer said Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano as part of his farewell speech on being deported to Italy from the United States in 1946. and they listened.
Although small of stature and with the appearance of a mild mannered banker he. with his boyhood friend Benjamin ‘Bugw’ Seigel formed the Bug and Meyer Mob, the most vicious of crews of that Prohibition Era of the 1920’s when it was a criminal offence to manufacture and sell alcohol for commercial purposes anywhere in America.
Althougrike breaking to the hijacking of liquor shipments that were supposedly under the protection of his own Bug and Meyer Mob.
Lansky sat in on sessions of the Commission, ruling body of the Mafia, again something which given his origins would now be unimaginable and as the only Jew to be a force in the Mafia after the Second World War, he remained a ‘man of respect’ during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
In New York during the 1950’s. Lansky had allied himself with Carlo Gambino a fast rising mobster in the Mangano Family. There was much bloodshed on the streets of the city during that period culminating in the assassination of Albert Anastasia. a former friend of Lansky from the early days of Murder Incorporated. Not too many tears were shed for Anastasia. hit on 25th October 1957 whilst having a shave the barber shop in the New York Sheraton Hotel. He had himself only ascended to power by eliminating the Mangano Brothers back in 1951.
Carlo and Meyer were now in control and the name of the Family was changed to Gambino without any protest.
By the end of the 1940’s Lanksy had put in place the gambling operation in Las Vegas through his boyhood friend Benjamin ‘Bugsy Siegel eliminated by the Mob on suspicion of siphoning off syndicate funds earmarked for the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.
During the following decade Lansky decided to move on and attempted to organise gambling operations in Cuba seeking the assistance of that Island’s Government but unfortunately this project came to naught following the revolution of 1959 that brought Fidel Castro to power when he lost no time in nationalising the hotel/casinos and also throwing Lansky and his friends off the Island.
In July 1970 Lansky, fearing serious charges involving racketeering and skimming from Las Vegas casinos slipped out of the United States and headed for Israel with the long term view of staking a claim for citizenship under the Law of Return which allowed any Jew to be given the right to settle in Israel which if successful would remove him from the clutches of the American Government.
The application by Lanksy to become a citizen was refused by the High Court of Israel on 11th September 1972 because even at the age of seventy he was thought a danger to the nation.
Rather than face the ignominy of being thrown out of Israel. Lansky voluntarily departed on 5th November 1972. He ended up back in the United States having previously been refused entry by various South American countries (despite financial incentives being offered) which included Paraguay. best known at the time for providing a safe haven for Nazi fugitives.
Meyer Lansky spent the remaining ten years of his life in America and even though all federal charges against him had been dismissed he was still not allowed back into Israel even as a tourist
Meyer Lansky was a visionary saying that ‘We are bigger than US Steer when attempting to equate Organised Crime with business but although Benjamin Seigel has been credited with the establishment of gambling in Las Vegas. it was really Meyer Lansky who saw the potential back in the early 1940’s to turn a small town in the Nevada Desert into the gambling and entertainment centre of the world.
His body ravaged with pain. Meyer Lansky Mogul of the Mob died in Miami Beach on 15th January 1983 in his eighty first year.