Arno’s Army

Arno’s right-hand man, and one of the many who thought beating up Nazis sounded like fun, was Max “Puddy” Hinkes. Puddy stood out in that crowd. Most of Newark’s Jewish boxers were compact, with necks that were short, shorter, and shortest. Puddy had an elongated look, as if he’d been stretched on the rack. He’d suffered “giraffe” jokes as a youngster, but kids quickly learned that teasing Puddy was risky. His arms had great length as well, and he could cuff you from around the corner.

Puddy had boxed for a year and a half before the Depression, mostly against easily dispatched cauliflower bait, and by the time of the Nazi fights, he was a full-time hood. His last pro fight, if you could call it that, was on January 14, 1930, after a seven-month layoff. He’d traveled outside of New Jersey for one of the few times in his life to take on a guy making his pro debut named Joey Edwards. Puddy hadn’t trained much for the fight; he believed in the myth that a pug could “fight himself into shape.” It didn’t work out that way. He threw a couple of pawing left jabs and was gassed. The crowd at the Duval County Armory in Jacksonville, Florida, started to boo, as neither fighter seemed much in the mood. There was a lot of circling and clinching. The referee wearied of separating them and gestured for the fighters to mix it up a little. They didn’t listen.

“Get a room,” someone yelled from the back of the cavernous armory.

The referee ended up stopping the fight in the fifth round. The crowd booed louder than ever, and some threw things into the ring. The “fight” was declared a “no contest” because of “stalling,” and afterward, Puddy decided to hang up his gloves and take his skills, with bare knuckles, to the street.

Gangsters were always sitting ringside in those days (and these days, too, to tell the truth). Most of the fighters were “owned” by racketeers, fights were routinely fixed, and there were several fight cards a week in Newark, indoors in the winter, outdoors in the summer, with the most popular venues being Dreamland Park, the Laurel Garden, and the Lyric Theatre.

Dreamland Park was an amusement park on Frelinghuysen Avenue within spitting distance of Weequahic Lake, where Arno did his sunrise roadwork. (It is the current site of the Seth Boyden Housing Project and is now neighbors with Newark Liberty International Airport.)

The Laurel Garden was a wood-framed barn of an arena located on Springfield Avenue, near the intersection of Eighteenth Avenue and South Tenth Street. It was a German beer garden and cinema for German-language films until the mid-1920s, when it was purchased by Charlie Zemel, a Newark-born son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Following the sale, the arena housed Newark fights, wrestling on Thursday and boxing on Monday, until 1952, when it was razed.

The Lyric Theatre was a 1,200-seat vaudeville theater that opened on Market Street in 1908. It eventually became a movie theater and, for a time, a venue for boxing. The building was torn down in the early 1960s and replaced by a printing plant for the Newark Evening News.

When a boxer was on the wrong side of the bell curve, he started looking at future employment opportunities, and bodyguard /driver for a criminal was a great option. That was the route Puddy Hinkes took.

Puddy was owned and had to do what he was told. He’d been a bad kid: breaking and entering, extortion, hijacking, the works. The old cliché is that bad boys take up boxing to go straight and keep themselves out of prison, but in many cases, thugs turned to boxing for extra cash and remained thugs. That was Puddy.

Why did they call him Puddy? No one knew. Even Hinkes didn’t know. He thought one of his brothers called him that and it stuck, but he didn’t know the significance or even what it meant.

Since Hinkes boxed on Friday nights, successful men who went to the fights knew who he was, so Hinkes was put in charge of making payoffs at City Hall. He knew important political leaders in Newark in a couple of ways. They knew him from watching him fight, but Hinkes was also a good friend of David “Quincy” Lieberman, who ran the city’s brothels. Puddy knew every whorehouse in the city and could get a bigwig a girl quick if the randy fellow had a few free moments.

He earned a reputation as a cool customer, neither sentimental nor emotional, but a pro who only worshipped the American dollar. As a rule, he’d fight for whichever side paid him better, but he hated Nazis so much that he’d bust them up for free.

Hinkes told stories of back in the old days when he was an enforcer for the Jewish community. Ruddy-cheeked jerkoffs would come onto Prince Street where the Jewish kids hung out. If an elder were around, they’d pull his beard and challenge the yeshiva bochers to do something about it. That was when Puddy stepped in and kicked goyim ass.

Once when he was fighting at the Laurel Garden, there was a guy in the crowd yelling anti-Semitic comments at the Jewish fighters. Puddy strode into the crowd and stuck his lit cigar into the loudmouth’s eye.

Hurting anti-Semites? You bet Puddy would do it for free.

“Puddy, you know anybody else who might want to join up?” Arno asked.

“Sure, Abie Bain.”


So, the third ex-boxer to join Arno’s army was Abie Bain, a Russian-born middleweight. Bain was a far better fighter than either Puddy or Arno. During much of his boxing career, which stretched from 1924 to 1936, Bain was ranked in the top ten in his division by Ring magazine.

Bain looked like no one to tangle with, even when he had his shirt on, but shirt off, he was especially scary, his iron-hewed biceps popping up like a mountain range when he flexed.

His only title fight came in the fall of 1930 when he stepped up in weight class to battle “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom in Madison Square Garden for the New York State Athletic Commission’s version of the light-heavyweight title. He lost, thoroughly, but put up a great fight and sent the crowd home happy. (Rosenbloom later ran a popular nightclub, Slapsie Maxie’s, on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, which was frequented by movie stars like Humphrey Bogart and Jackie Gleason.)

The other highlight (or lowlight) of his career was another TKO loss in Dreamland Park in 1931 to Tony “Two-Ton” Galento, a blubbery brawler who once knocked down Joe Louis in a heavyweight championship fight, only to be subsequently pummeled into submission by the Brown Bomber until his clock-stopping mush wore a clown-like mask of blood and lumps.

Galento might have been outmatched by Joe Louis, but he gave Bain a horrible beating. Before the fight, Bain weighed in at 165, Galento at his usual svelte 235. Outweighed by seventy pounds, it’s amazing that Bain lasted until the fourth round before beginning a seven-week residency in a nearby hospital. He was never the same after that. Bain’s record after the Galento fight was seven wins, fourteen losses, and one draw. He won none of his last eight bouts and finally retired.

It would later come out that Arno’s fight against the Nazis was not limited to busting up meetings. He was in regular touch with Dr. S. William Kalb, who was the head of Newark’s legitimate anti-Nazi efforts. The physician’s efforts included boycotting German products and recruiting Jews to the cause.

On Sundays, Arno would visit Kalb’s home, and Kalb’s daughter once overheard Arno saying, “Doc, is there anyone I can kill for you?”

The next Newark gangster to join Arno’s army was Hymie “the Weasel” Kugel, another of Longie’s boys. The Weasel was best known as a boxing (and later pro wrestling) referee, a job he’d had since 1920. But just because he was the third man in the ring didn’t mean he couldn’t handle himself in a scuffle, anything from Marquis de Queensberry to no-holds-barred. He was squat, five-two tops, but had a hard-to-defend burrowing style and could bowl over larger men with pure aggression.

The Weasel, too, liked to talk about the ignorant anti-Semites he’d hurt. His favorite tale was the time he and another of Longie’s soldiers, Itzik Goldstein, were having a meal at the Ideal Restaurant when three Polish clods came in, all mouth. They found the service slothful, called the proprietor a Jew bastard, and it was on.

The Weasel went into the kitchen and grabbed a heavy iron frying pan. He invited the three men outside and tried to explain to them that they were being disrespectful. When they responded poorly to that, he slapped the frying pan hard across the cheek of the loudest of the three. The guy went down in stages, seemingly folding himself down to the sidewalk. Goldstein hit a second man over the head with a wine bottle, and he dropped as if shot beside the first. The third hightailed it out of there while the Weasel and Goldstein laughed.

The biggest member of Arno’s crew was the full-fledged heavyweight Harry “the Dropper” Levine, who stood six-four. In 1936, Levine won the Golden Gloves tournament, the finals of which were fought in Madison Square Garden.

Another was Benny “Bouncing Boy” Levine, no relation to Harry, a bantamweight who fought professionally for fifteen years and lost just about as many as he won. He outpointed Arno in a fight at the Laurel Garden in Newark but received a devastating thrashing from Arno in a rematch two weeks later. They’d been friends ever since. He originally got his nickname because of his bobbing style in the ring, but near the end, the joke was that it was because he repeatedly bounced off the canvas during every fight. He was a feared puncher, but his hands slowed over time. Near the end, he could barely make weight for middleweight bouts, and those guys hit a lot harder. He was on a serious losing streak in 1938 and on a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from the ring. Benny helped Arno out at the gym and now only fought Nazis.

Other members of Zwillman’s Third Ward gang were Barney Sugerman, bookie “Mohawk” Skuratovsky, also known as Jacob Mohawk, so nicknamed because of his tomahawk-shaped nose; Julius “Skinny” Markowitz, twenty-three years old; Harry Green, the youngest, only nineteen; Max Leipzig; and Primo Weiner.

The great majority of the crew remained anonymous. Some later claimed to fight Nazis but maybe didn’t. Harold “Kayo” Konigsberg said he was right in there, busting Nazis with Arno and Puddy and the rest throughout the New Jersey campaign. Maybe. Trouble is, he was only twelve years old at the time. Kayo was a little nuts, and he once shat himself in court to demonstrate that fact to a judge. He did grow up to be a Jewish gangster though, no doubt about that, a Jewish hit man who eventually went to prison for life for murder, served fifty years, and lived to be eighty-nine, dying on November 23, 2014, in a Florida nursing home.

There were Nazi-fighters of the Third Ward who were neither boxers nor gangsters, men who’d worked on the assembly lines of Newark’s factories, workplaces that were boarded up after the stock market crash. These were Jews—and a handful of sympathetic gentiles—who’d suffered more than anyone with the Depression and hated the disinformation artists out there blaming Jews for America’s woes. They were out of work and bored, looking to take out their frustration on something, so it might as well be Nazi skull.

Unlike in New York and Chicago, where maybe a couple dozen gangsters were taking on Bund meetings, Arno’s army eventually numbered close to a thousand. If necessary, they could defend the city in case of an attempted takeover. It never came to that, but if it had, they were ready.

Once assembled and trained, Arno’s army called themselves the Anti-Nazi Minutemen of America, the Minutemen for short, in homage to the Revolutionary War patriots who could assemble and go to battle with only sixty seconds’ notice.

One of the Minutemen’s first actions wasn’t in Newark, or even New Jersey at all. They traveled convoy-style two hours southward to Philadelphia, where they busted up a Bund meeting in the Turngemeinde Hall, a meeting held in celebration of the Anschluss, Germany’s bloodless seizure of Austria. The hall, built in 1911, was at the corner of Broad Street and Columbia Avenue (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue).

While unrelated protesters from the Citizens’ Anti-Nazi Committee were outside the Philly hall carrying signs that read “DOWN WITH HITLER AND HIS U.S. FOLLOWERS,” the Minutemen crashed the party while William Kunze was at the podium.

The cops came and broke up the melee, which was described by the Associated Press as “raging fist fighting in the small hall.” More than a dozen Nazis were injured, but only one Minuteman—Hymie “the Weasel” Kugel, who suffered a cut over his eye.

All one had to do was look funny at the Weasel’s brows and he’d start to bleed because of the scar tissue that had accumulated there over his career in the ring. On the ride home, the Weasel was teased about taking a shot from one of the krautheads.

“It was a head butt! No way nobody got a punch in on me,” Weasel complained. Everybody laughed and passed a bottle around during the ride home.

Back in Philadelphia, Kunze was complaining to a reporter that “subversive minorities” had invaded the Bund. He denied that the Bund meeting was a celebration of anything, said that it was just the normally scheduled monthly meeting.

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