Posted on: April 14, 2023, 04:22h.
Last updated on: April 14, 2023, 04:33h.
Myron Sugarman was a Jewish gangster who cornered the market in illegal slot machines in Manhattan and Newark, New Jersey. He is also a former Nazi hunter.
In a new Amazon Prime documentary, The Last Man Standing: The Chronicles of Myron Sugerman, the 85-year-old wise guy gives an account of his colorful existence as a member of the “Kosher-Nostra.”
The film, by director Jonny Caplan, also explores the Jewish Mob’s fight against antisemitism. It documents its battles with American Nazis in the 1930s, as well as its role in aiding the post-War hunt for those who took part in the Holocaust.
Sugarman was, in his own words, the “godfather of the illegal slot machine business.” And he was born into it. At the height of prohibition, his father, Barney “Sugie” Sugerman, ran with legendary Jewish mobsters like Abner “Longy” Zwillman, Bugsy Seigel, Joe “Doc” Stacher, and Meyer Lanksy.
Sugie had his hand in everything from “bootlegging, boxing, fixing fights, thievery” to “jukeboxes, vending machines, pinball machines, slot machines,” according to Sugarman junior.
In the 1930s Zwillman formed an association called “the Newark Minutemen,” which was devoted to serving up beatings to Nazis sympathizers, in particular Fritz Kuhn’s short-lived German American Bund Party. Kuhn had declared himself “the Hitler of the United States.”
Sugarman recounts how the Minutemen would throw stink bombs into the halls where Nazis met and would be waiting for them as they ram out with “monkey wrenches and baseball bats and brass knuckles.”
The young Myron Sugarman was a smart kid, a college graduate who could speak six languages (“seven, if you include profanity,” he says). His father sent him to Europe to start an “export business,” which he developed into the largest supplier of illegal slot machines in the world.
“I was the biggest contrabandist and bootlegger of Bally Bingo machines across the states,” Sugarman says proudly in the film.
Hunt for Mengele
While in Europe in the 1960s, Sugarman knocked on the door of famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and asked how he could help. Wiesenthal replied that his operation needed money, and Sugarman began providing funding.
The two men became firm friends, and Sugarman was involved in the hunt for Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele, who was living in Paraguay at the time.
There was always this question of Jewish pride,” Sugarman says in the film. “The Jewish gangster really had a psychological need to show that the Jews could be just as tough as any other ethnicity because they were going to break with the 2,000 years of our heads-down living in the ghetto, fearful. There was definitely no identity crisis. These Jews were tough and were ready to prove it.”
Sugarman eventually served prison time in the 1980s for distributing knock-off Pacman machines but remains unapologetic for his criminal activities.
“I never did anything legitimate — I had principles,” he jokes.
“When they see something is profitable, they take it away from the mobsters and take it away for themselves… The big fish eat the little fish, and that is the way of the world,” he says.