Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Stalking Hitler [Rewritten from additional notes]
Dutch said the contract was simple. And Dutch, I discovered, should know. “Find the target and shoot him. Collect the fee.” That was all there was to it, he said.
Yet carrying out the task was somewhere between very difficult and impossible. The intended victim was after all not just another loose-cannon gangster or everyday hood. You couldn’t just “take him for a ride.” This target was a political figure – a world leader, in fact. He surrounded himself with an elite corps of ever-alert and merciless bodyguards. And he had uncanny luck. He’d survived several assassination attempts unscathed.
The contracted gunman had to travel far and he needed friendly contacts in a foreign country to assist in carrying out his job. After that, if at all possible, he must arrange for his own means of escape. Precisely because of the difficulties the hit entailed, along with its importance, the shooter was promised the extraordinary sum of $2500, plus expenses.
Everyone involved appeared to believe that the success of the contract could turn history in a new direction and that for several months in the summer autumn of 1933 the fate of the world depended on one determined American with a gun.
“Yeah, it was $2500,” Dutch recalled of the fee to be paid. “But not up front. I heard that. How can I forget that amount? And it was 1933, remember. Hard times. A depression. There was a lotta good guys outa work then. That was a year’s salary. More even. A lot of money back then – a lot of money. Could open your eyes. You hear that and you sit up and pay attention.”
This is how of Abe “Dutch” Goldberg remembered the 1933 plot to kill Adolph Hitler.
I met Abe in 1988 and followed up that initial Q & A session with several phone calls. As far as I know I was the last person Goldberg spoke to about the event. He died in 1993.
At our first and only face to face meeting, Goldberg asked me to call him “Dutch.” “My friends calls me Dutch,” he said. “You seem OK. So you call me Dutch, too.”
When we met Dutch was living in Herzlia Pituah, the seaside suburb of the city of Herzlia, about 15 miles north of Tel Aviv. I phoned ahead and asked if he’d meet me. I gave him my background and my interests and the name of someone who gave me his number. He listened to my rapid-fire introduction quietly. When I was finished there was a long silence on the other end of the line. Finally, he said, “Sure. Why not?”
I asked him if I might meet at his home, but he in turn suggested we talk at a restaurant – Picasso –not far from where he lived. It was across the street from the Daniel Tower Hotel, he said, and near the beach. I knew the place because it was also a few blocks from where I lived.
Herzlia Pituah is an affluent community. It has a marina for yachts and pleasure craft. It has many renowned restaurants serving international cuisine – Israeli, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Thai and Western. The suburb contains three five-star hotels and is home to the diplomatic corps of many countries. The U.S. government owns residential properties there and houses its diplomats in them. Abe was doing well, I could guess, if he lived Herzlia Pituah.
Although I lived in Herzlia Pituah, too, I was not one of the affluent residents. Not by a long shot. I was a professor, teaching at Tel Aviv University and gathering material for a book on the history of Jewish gangsters in America. My salary allowed me to get by. I wasn’t starving and I was doing better than some, worse than others. As in most countries in the world, professors in Israel are expected to be compensated with prestige and modest pay. I was writing not merely for the love of it, but for the necessity, also, of making a living.
A sympathetic friend provided me with information on Abe Goldberg. “If he’ll talk to you,” he said, “You’ll find him an excellent source. But be prepared for disappointment. He's not very talkative about his past.”
He arrived at our designated meeting place – the Picasso – before me. When I entered he was already seated and hunched over the small table. He was facing the door, waiting for me, a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. He stood and shook my hand. He was about 5’7”, stocky in build, with thinning grey hair and narrow brown eyes. In his youth, I surmised, he must have had movie-star good looks. But time took its toll. Dutch was 83. His skin showed age spots, and his left hand shook slightly when he lifted his coffee cup to his lips.
According to my notes it was August 15, 1988, which I remember as being a very warm and muggy Monday in Tel Aviv.
After I was seated, Abe asked me to tell him once more about my work, my education, my background, my life. One of the organizations I was writing about was Detroit’s Purple Gang. He nodded as I listed some of the members – as if each had been a friend of his. He asked if I’d written anything about Sherman Billingsley – former proprietor of the Stork Club in New York. I said I hadn’t. He said I should. An interesting fellow, he called Billingsley. “And Jerry Buckley, the radio guy who was bumped off in Detroit, you know about him?"
"Another interesting case," he said. "More there than meets the eye." I wrote down the name and underlined it in my notes.
Dutch looked at me for a long time before he said, “Gangsters! Gangsters! Why is a nice Jewish professor like you writing about that stuff? There are a lot of things I can think of that need to be written…But gangsters… that is not one of them.”
I told him my mother said the same thing. It was an interesting subject, I said. Few academics approached it. It was relatively unexplored, I said.
The old man turned his gaze to the table and his cup of coffee. He encircled the cup with his hands and listened to my answer.
“Unexplored,” he repeated and smiled. “Yeah. I bet they don’t teach it in the university.”
“I grew up in Detroit,” I told him. “Everyone in my parent's generation knew about the Purple Gang. They were still legends in my neighborhood when I was a kid. My grandfather even knew the father of some of the members. The Fleisher brothers, Louis and Harry."
“What was your grandfather’s name?”
I told him. “Never knew the guy,” Dutch said.
I laughed. "My grandfather wasn't a gangster," I said. "He was a junk peddler. He knew the Fleishers' father from the junk business."
For ten minutes we went back and forth about my research and topics Dutch thought I should pursue. Finally, I said, "I once heard a rumor about a contract…on Hitler. Could this be true? Do you know anything about that?”
Dutch thought about my question for a moment. Then he said, "I’ve got one condition.” “OK.”
“Yes, I understand."
"Don’t use my name while I’m still breathing. “
“I can agree to that.”
“Then we can talk. I don’t want to be bothered. I want to sleep at night. And I never know what you’re gonna write when you ‘explore.’. It might disturb my sleep if my name was in it.”
“I won’t use your name while you’re still around.”
Dutch proceeded to tell me about his life. He said he’d been “an associate” of Jewish gangsters in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. He described growing up on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade and turned to petty crime to make some money. He stole from peddlers and waylaid drunks on the street, he said. Then, because he was a good fighter, he worked as a "shtarker"(muscleman) and for the right price would beat up someone who owed money or who angered someone. He sometimes worked as a strikebreaker and for bootleggers, guarding their illegal shipments of liquor. From there he became a hired gun. He was arrested more than 40 times, he recalled, and said he had killed "more than one man." In the early 1930s he became a soldier in the Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel crime organization in New York.
In the early spring of 1933, he said, "someone respectable" approached him about killing Hitler. He said no but thank you very much for thinking of me. He was asked to take the request to Lansky and to any other associates who might show interest in the undertaking. When he asked for more details on the project, Goldberg was told that "there are people in Germany who are ready to assist us." Goldberg "talked to some of the boys about it. They hated the Nazis and knew what was happening to the Jews. And they were willing to go to Germany and do the job."
They spoke Yiddish, he said, and so believed that they could get around any language problems in Germany. But before the contract could be formalized any further "that 'mamzer' (bastard) J. Edgar Hoover and his Feds started snooping around and asking questions." So Lansky and "the boys" thought it was wise to drop the matter. It was bad for business. Reflecting on the plot, Goldberg concluded, "It was really a shame. Really. I wish we'd done it and killed the son-of-a-bitch. Can you imagine? They woulda given us all medals. It's a shame we didn't go through with it. We woulda been heroes."
He paused. “You ask questions, that’s the best way,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I know. Some of it. The rest you don’t want to know. The rest of it…should stay where it is now. Dead and buried.”
Ok, I told him. I opened my notebook to a page where I’d already written down the questions I’d wanted to ask him. “Do you know the man who accepted the offer?”
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Everybody knows that. Everybody. Do you, professor?”
“I’ve heard his name may have been Stern.”
“His name was Stern. What else do you know?”
"That's all. What can you tell me about him?”
“Not a lot,” Dutch said. “I never met him. I just heard about him. They said he had a lot of enthusiasm. Not a lot of brains or "seykhl" (judgment), but a lot of enthusiasm.”
“He had no experience in this kind of thing. Of course, who does? More important is that he was clean. He had no record. He was almost perfect – with the exception of the brains, as I already mentioned. Of course nobody thought he’d get away with it. I mean, he’d be right in the middle of it all when he pulled the trigger. He’d go down too. But he didn’t seem to mind. He was determined to kill Hitler and he didn’t care what happened to himself and somebody thought he was expendable.”
“The down payment was travel expenses only,” Dutch said. “One ticket, second class, to Belgium, they gave him. One way: New York to Belgium, I think. One way, mind you. Now you figure, if they advance a guy enough for a one-way ticket, they don’t expect him to come back, right? But this guy, this Stern, he didn’t seem to mind that. No objections. He knew the risks. But he was a true believer – may he rest in peace. He was not afraid to go into the lion’s den. Call him meshuge (crazy) if you want. Maybe he was. But also maybe he wasn’t. Given what happened later, maybe he wasn’t so crazy after all.”
After a moment of reflection Dutch continued, “He was a lucky bastard. One lucky bastard."
“No, Herr Hitler. I tell ya, his bodyguards were angels from hell. He was the devils’ favorite. How many guys tried to bump him off, do you think? How many? You had to take a ticket and stand in line to shoot at the bastard, I tell you. And they all came so close, so close. But in the end he killed himself. Nobody else could do it for him. When Stern’s turn came, we heard there are a dozen other attempts that year, all unsuccessful. That’s what we heard. Hell, after that, Stern really had no chance. I mean, they were ready for something. Poor Stern had no chance. But what are you gonna do? You just can’t sit there on your tuchas (arse) and do nothing. You have to do something. And so Stern took his turn.
When I asked Dutch if he had hard evidence on this plot he said he did not. “Hard evidence? Whadda ya mean?” he asked.
“Documents,” I said. “Letters. I’m a historian after all. I like documents.”
You gotta be kiddin,” he said. “There’s no – whadda they call it now – paper trail? There’s no paper trail.”
A moment later he told me that Hoover probably wrote something about it and that maybe I should check in Washington.
I wrote down what he said. But I remained skeptical. Other former Jewish mobsters I interviewed told me about how they helped Jews and how they had taken action against Nazi Bundists during the '30s. Maybe I always felt they were merely trying to impress me. Maybe in their old age they wanted to erase some of the more nefarious deeds of their youth. The same, I thought, might be true with Dutch. How do I know he was telling the truth? There was, as he put it, no “paper trail.” Just words. Maybe he made the stories up or was just telling me what he thought I wanted to hear.
But before long I was pleasantly surprised. While I was seated at a desk in the archives of the FBI building in Washington, a few years after interviewing Dutch, waiting for a particular file to be brought to me, I picked up a set of files lying on an adjacent table. A file labeled "Adolf Hitler" caught my eye. I wondered why the FBI would have a file on Hitler. I opened it and paged through the papers inside. They provided a paper trail of an alleged attempt by American Jews to assassinate Hitler in 1933!
“Abe, you were telling me the truth,” I whispered.
The file, number 65-53615, lay buried and forgotten for decades in the FBI archives. It details information about a plot involving one man with a gun, going after Adolph Hitler in 1933. The plot passed an initial planning stage but was foiled by an investigation mounted the U. S. Justice Department. In an effort to prevent an international incident -- an American citizen assassinating a German leader -- American law enforcement officials may have helped save the life of Hitler in 1933.
The tale of the conspiracy to kill the German Chancellor came to the attention of the American government by way of a letter. Dated March 23, 1933, typed on plain white paper and addressed to "The German Ambassador, Washington, D.C., " the letter was passed to U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings late on the morning of March 29, 1933, a Wednesday. The letter read:
I have asked President Roosevelt to publicly remonstrate with your government the outrages upon the Jews in Germany, and to demand an immediate and complete end of this persecution.
In the event that he does not make such a statement, I notify you that I shall go to Germany and assassinate Hitler."
German diplomats demanded an immediate and full investigation of the threat.
The new Roosevelt administration had been in office only two weeks. Washington was awash in the heady excitement of the first 100 Days of the New Deal. The new president declared a bank holiday on March 5th closing all the banks and freezing financial transactions The 73rd Congress was called into emergency session by the president and convened on March 10th. Two days later the president went on national radio to explain in simple terms to concerned listeners across the country what he was doing and he intended to do to defeat the depression in the first of his “fireside chats.” Dramatic legislation made its way through Congress dealing with the lingering economic depression and the social instability it had created. Events in Germany -- including the recent accession to power of a new Nazi Chancellor, Adolf Hitler -- concerned most of the public and the government hardly at all.
As Attorney General Cummings considered the letter forwarded to him by the German Embassy, Congress established the Civilian Conservation Corps to employ tens of thousands of American boys in projects in the countryside, giving them jobs and hope.
Within the Justice Department the primary concern of the new Attorney General was the crusade against domestic crime. Opinion polls indicated that what worried the American public most was crime -- a greater concern even than the depression. Much of the crime was popularly associated with Prohibition -- the 13 year long campaign to rid the country of booze, which produced more crime than sobriety. Organized gangs financed themselves through the international smuggling of illegal liquor as well as through producing and retailing the stuff. The Capone organization in Chicago was but the best known and the most notorious of a dozen such organizations across the country. In Detroit, the Purple Gang ruled supreme in the booze business. They imported liquor across the Detroit River from Ontario into Michigan and then transported it to Chicago for Capone. The nation was divided up into private fiefdoms by the gangs.
But the country grew thirsty for legal booze and tired of the crime and in the spring of 1933 prohibition was on its way out -- the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th Amendment (prohibition) was making its way through the state legislatures and one of the first things the new president did to exercise his executive power to legalize beer. The public cheered and imbibed, legally at last.
While prohibition-based crime was undercut by new legislation the depression produced yet another crime wave of bank robberies and kidnapping. Colorful characters like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd and John Dillinger became the objects of national attention and fascination. There was a surge in kidnappings – including the infant son of Charles Lindbergh and Theodore Hamm, President of the Hamm Brewing Company. The Lindbergh baby was murdered but Hamm was released after payment of a $100,000 ransom. In tranquil San Jose, California, Brooke Hart, the son of a prominent local businessman, was abducted in broad daylight just outside his father’s store. Hart was murdered and the two men arrested for the crime were lynched in a city park across the street from the jail by an enraged mob.
The Justice Department's front man in the war on crime was the Director of the Division of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. He was a veteran of the department, having headed the Division of Investigation [The Division became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935], since his appointment by President Calvin Coolidge in May, 1924. Cummings turned to Hoover to locate Daniel Stern and stop him.
Through the spring, the summer and into the fall of 1933, Hoover's "G-Men" met the crime wave head on and also went on a search for Stern. They sought out contacts in the Jewish-American underground and among legitimate businessmen, hotel employees, telephone operators, building janitors, students and anyone else who would talk to them about any rumors of a plan to assassinate Germany's Chancellor.
Stern's letter indicated that his objection to Hitler was the German leader's anti-Semitic policy. Thousands of Jewish-Americans shared Stern's concern and were trying to do something to get Hitler to alter the racist road he had chosen to follow.
Ethnic cleansing, which had obsessed Hitler and his friends, began within hours of Hitler's assumption of power in Germany on January 30, 1933. Germany's Jews became the target of that cleansing and the scapegoats for all that had gone wrong in the past in central Europe. Albert Einstein, who was already a refugee from German anti-Semitism, appealed for the moral intervention of the world against Hitlerism. More militant members of the American Jewish community reacted to Hitler's policies by taking to the streets. Hundreds picketed German consulates, businesses and stores selling German products. Thousands attended protest rallies and parades in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and other cities.
When Hitler and his Nazis declared war on the Jews, Stern's personal declaration of war against Hitler seemed a reasonable response and his threat to kill the Nazi leader was taken seriously.
It is not entirely unlikely that Stern might have been known to members or associates of Detroit's Purple Gang, or he may have met other high-profile Jewish mobsters of the day like Max Hoff, Maier Suchowljansky (Meyer Lansky) , Isadore Blumenfield, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Arthur Flegenheimer (Dutch Schultz) or Lepke Buchalter. Any of them could have been in some way connected with Stern, or they might have been approached by someone to do the job, as Dutch Goldberg said, and could then provide leads in the case.
Hoover assigned one of his top agents, Dwight Brantley, to coordinate the national investigation. Brantley alerted Division of Investigation field offices across the country to the news of a plot to kill Hitler. The Division probe began in earnest in April and continued throughout the summer
An early lead from Detroit led nowhere The Division received a report stating that a young man had come to authorities with information on a conversation he'd overheard involving a plot to kill Hitler. Agents were sent to interview him. The, source a "young Jewish boy, 19 years of age, with the appearance of a clean living and moral individual" told the agents that he overheard his dentist discuss a plot to kill Hitler. In detail he told how his dentist, who was also Jewish, said he had previously used German drills and that since Hitler had been persecuting Jews, he and other dentists had boycotted all German products. The dentist then said that one of his patients said that he did not want any German products used on him, and that some one "should bump Hitler off." The boy thought the statement was made "in a savage way." The dentist was interviewed. The trail went cold.
Another lead came from a special agent in charge of the Division's Chicago office who found that there was in fact someone in Chicago named Daniel Stern with underground associations. This individual, moreover, had moved from Chicago to Philadelphia and the original Stern letter bore a Philadelphia postmark.
Agents in Philadelphia searched local and public records for Stern and found no listings for him. They then turned to Jewish gang contacts for information. Max "Boo Boo" Hoff, who dominated Philadelphia's criminal enterprises at the time, offered to cooperate in the search for Daniel Stern. He talked to the G-man R. G. Harvey for several hours, but could not recall meeting Stern or knowing anyone else who had met the man. Harvey also interviewed several of Hoff's lieutenants and associates and all claimed they'd never heard of Stern or of the plot to kill Hitler or any other Nazi for that matter. But almost all of them, Harvey reported, were impressed by the plot and thought it was "a great idea!"
When Hoff and his organization proved to be a dead end in the search for Stern, Harvey's G-Men, undeterred, continued to dig for information. Their perseverance bore meager fruit. One source said he remembered that a man named Daniel Stern had rented an apartment in the city. He provided Harvey with the address. G-Men contacted the building's supervisor and gained entrance to the flat where Stern had lived. They were too late. Stern was gone. The building supervisor provided the agents with a description of Stern. He was "a very high type of person," he said, who got along very well with the other tenants. But as to where he had gone, the supervisor had no idea. Further investigation yielded nothing. After mailing his letter, Stern vanished without a trace.
G-Men also interviewed the German consul in Philadelphia and examined his files. He stated that he had not been advised by the Embassy in Washington of the letters concerning the plot to kill Hitler. He said also, that in all probability the letter from Stern was written by "some crank, who is a sympathizer of the Jewish element." Harvey reported that the German consul said he was often "besieged by individuals who make threats upon him, but that they are all of the crank type and he dismisses them and pay s no attention to them as he does not consider their threats serious."
Then a promising lead came to the Justice Department from the Germany Embassy, which had received a letter from a source in Phoenix, Arizona. There, a man reported that on the evening of April 19th, 1933, he had overheard a group of men he described as "stout men in their fifties," including a rabbi, speaking Yiddish, discuss "a plan to murder Chancellor Hitler."
According to this informant, the men initially talked about conditions in Germany and the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Then, "one of the speakers told the others that Hitler would not last long; that a number of Jews in New York were sending a man to Germany to assassinate Hitler."
The speaker went on to say that "a young American Jew has already been chosen to perform the act." He was to leave for Germany sometime in May. The assassination was to occur "between May and September 1933. Hitler was either to be poisoned or shot." Upon hearing this, the informant went on, "the Jews present became jubilant."
Hoover reacted quickly. If this report was true, the Division was running out of time to find Stern before he left the country. Hoover wired the Division office in Los Angeles and ordered agents to investigate the lead with all possible speed.
Agents from Los Angeles flew to Phoenix and then drove to the San Carlos Hotel to meet with the source of the story. On August 16 they located and interviewed the source of the story. He was a mining engineer and had spent 25 years in Mexico as a soldier and an engineer. He had been a colonel in the Mexican Army when General Porfirio Diaz was in power and held a dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico. He told the agents that he had been visiting a friend in a room at the San Carlos Hotel in May. The friend left the room for a few minutes and he was left alone. He heard a loud conversation in Yiddish in the next room -- yet agents did not ask him how he understood the conversation. The two men he overheard were speaking about conditions in Germany and Hitler's antipathy for the Jews. One of the men suddenly said that Hitler would not last long, that a number of Jews in New York City were sending a man to Germany to assassinate him. They named the boat on which the assassin would travel, he said, but he could not recall its name for the agents.
Later, he said, he saw the two men in the hotel lobby. He described them as men in their 50s, and heavy set. He could give no other specifics. When he asked the bellboy who the men were he was given their names and was told that one was a rabbi. But he could not recall the names. He said he immediately sent a letter reporting what he'd heard to the German Embassy giving the names of the men as well as the name of the ship the assassin was to travel on. But since that time he'd forgotten the names of the men and of the ship.
He seemed upset in his conversation with the agents, they reported, since "he had asked the German Embassy never to mention his name." Then, as agents listened to him, he launched into a tirade against the Jews of the US, stating that American "will have to take the same action against them within 10 years that Germany has taken." He told agents that he was attempting to patent and market an alloy of lead and copper to be used in bearings, "but that the Jews in this country have preventing his financing of same."
When agents checked his story with his letter to the German Embassy they found a serious divergence. He did not, as he told them, name the men or the boat in his original letter, and no bellboy could remember having provided him with names. They then interrogated everyone on the hotel's staff, from the manager to the bellboys. No one remembered anything of the alleged meeting or recalled anything unusual --not even a gathering of "stout men" and "a rabbi." Agents examined the hotel's registry and wrote down every "Jewish sounding" name. They then transmitted the names and the results of their inquiry to the Division headquarters in Washington.
The trail went cold again.
Later an informant in Chicago contacted the German Embassy in Washington and promised to reveal a conspiracy to kill Hitler for the payment of $1000 in advance and another $1000 following verification of his report. The Chicago informant announced that he would travel to Washington to meet with the German Ambassador. Arrangements were made to identify and follow the man, but he never showed up to collect his money or to provide further information on the plot against Hitler.
The German Embassy provided yet one more lead -- a letter dated April 21st stating that "In listening to a conversation between several New York Jews, I learned that a plan is under way to murder Reich Chancellor Adloph (sic) Hitler, and that a young American Jew Has(sic) already been chosen to perform the act. The Jews present were jubilant over the plan. I am informing you of the above in order to prevent a possible misfortune." The letter was signed, "Very respectfully, C. Portugall." It was forwarded to the Justice Department along with a note stating that the Embassy "would be grateful if the proper steps could be taken in the matter."
Hoover noted that Daniel Stern and the "young American Jew" alluded to in the Arizona and New York reports might be the same person. A request was sent to New York to contact an undercover source (whose name is still deleted from all reports) "and through him obtain any information possible concerning the identity of Daniel Stern."
The New York office mobilized all of its resources in an effort to find Stern and the other "jubilant" Jews described in the report. Agents examined New York City directories, telephone books and postal records. They tapped their covert sources in the underworld. Their investigation continued through July but again every clue eventually led them to a dead end.
In New York, Meyer Lansky also made no secret of his personal hatred for the Nazis, but he never betrayed any knowledge he might have of Daniel Stern. Later he remembered the rise of the Nazis and said, "I was a Jew and I felt for those Jews in Europe who were suffering. They were my brothers." Later in the 1930s Lansky acted on his sympathies turned to direct action against German sympathizers in the U.S. organizing attacks by armed thugs against German Bund meetings.
Bugsy Siegel shared Lansky's hatred for Nazis and was more than willing, it seems, to shoot them. But the Division's investigation of Siegel in 1933 provided no indication of his knowledge of the plot to kill Hitler. Siegel, later, had an opportunity to kill two leading Nazi officials and came close to doing it. According to one account, Siegel was visiting Rome in 1938 and was a guest in the Villa Madama, home of Count Carlo Difrasso and his wife, Dorothy. The countess and the gangster at the time were having an affair. Nazi officials Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering were also visiting Rome and staying at the same villa at the same time. And when Siegel heard they were nearby "he became apoplectic." He announced his intention to kill them both. When the countess told him, "You can't do that!" he responded, "Sure I can. It's an easy set-up!" It took a good deal of persuasion to talk Siegel out of whacking two Nazis, but for the rest of his life (he was gunned down in 1947) he insisted that at one critical moment he had the power to alter history -- and didn't.
On August 19, 1933, special agent J. M. Keith sent a progress reported regarding "Daniel Stern and the Threat to Assassinate German Chancellor Hitler" to Hoover. Keith summarized the investigations in Philadelphia, Chicago, Phoenix, Detroit and New York. He conceded that the Bureau had failed to locate Stern or to uncover any plot to kill Hitler. He concluded his report by saying that "this case has been reassigned and in the future will receive appropriate attention."
Nothing more was done.
On September 22, 1933, acting Special Agent Brantley submitted a final report to Hoover. All outstanding leads regarding the threat to assassinate Hitler, he wrote, "have been completed without any definite information having been obtained." Accordingly, "this case is being closed at the Washington field office." Brantley assured the Director that the case will be "reopened in the event further information is received by the German Chancellor."
Every lead investigated by Hoover's G-Men led to a dead end. The Division of Investigation file on the threat against Hitler, on the other hand, is not complete. A number of reports and memos referred to in some of the documents are missing. It seems doubtful that they would shed any more light on the existence or whereabouts of Stern.
Yet, it appeared from the written record that there really was a plot to kill Hitler and J. Edgar Hoover and his men, unknowingly, foiled it.
Upon my return to Israel I called Goldberg and told him all that I knew and what was in the FBI files, and that J. Edgar Hoover and the U.S. Department of Justice may have unwittingly saved the life of Adolph Hitler in the summer of 1933. Goldberg filled in a few details for me.
“The timing was all wrong,” he said. “And maybe somebody backed the wrong horse. Nobody knew that much about Stern. That was supposed to be good at first. But you never know. You never know.
“That summer, 1933, we learned that just about everybody and his brother thought about taking a whack at the Fuehrer. When you got to Germany, I mean, you had to take a ticket and get in line for your shot. Somebody asked about Stern in Germany. But nobody knew nothing. Later someone said that there were more than a dozen attempts to get Hitler that year, one of them even involved a soldier. But he was bulletproof. We didn’t know that. Public figures are well guarded, but Hitler, he was somethin’ else. I mean someone even got to Roosevelt and Cermack in 1933. That was close. But Hitler? He was bulletproof. Who knew? I swear to God, the devil was his bodyguard. And you gotta remember, that in the end, the only guy who could whack Hitler was Hitler himself.”