Zion Island 4.

צייַטונג לאַכוואַ נייַ (New Lakhva News, my translation) October 1952.

Readers of this newspaper will admit that we have seen many an unusual sight since we left our home countries.  Among the most unusual sights of late has been the work of the New Lakhva model airplane club.  These are not simply reproductions of famous aircraft meant to decorate a little boy’s bedroom.  They are diminutive “real” airplanes, although the designers grumpily admit that they are not “real” engineers.  Club members have moved from simple gliders to planes powered by rubber bands to planes with tiny gas engines.  In the most recent demonstration, two of our local enthusiasts demonstrated how a small plane could be controlled from the ground.  It’s all done with a small radio set.  A tiny receiver on the plane then adjusts the controls on the airborne model.  Club members demonstrated their skills in a pasture outside of the village this past week-end.  They made their little plane, which they have named ברייט ליכט (“Bright Light”—my translation) take off, climb, dive, and circle the pasture.  Children and adults alike were amused by the tricks.  The only mishap occurred when the two “pilots” tried to land their plane.  Some unforeseen problem or error caused the model to nose into the ground.  Well, practice, practice, practice.  Mordechai A and Menachem B insist that the idea could have many practical applications.  We’ll keep watching.

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Zion Island 3.

“Nightlife Calendar,” TheresienZeitung, 28 July 1951.  (My translation.)

Graf Guy de Marcheret d’Eu has arrived from Paris on his first concert tour outside Europe.  Graf Guy mixes classical standards with current pop favorites (“Ne pas s’asseoir sous le pommier”) and adds in his own compositions inspired by the verse of Alexander Pushkin.  The highly-regarded pianist will be appearing four nights a week at Rick’s Club Besame.

Zion Island 2.

TO: J. Edgar Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

FROM: FBI Criminal Branch.

 

DATE:  25 December 1952.

 

RE: Query from the Police Department of Cleveland, Ohio.

 

The Investigations Division of the Police Department of Cleveland, Ohio has contacted the Bureau regarding one of its current operations.  They have requested any information on “Alexander Berg.”

The Cleveland police have been surveilling a local organized crime figure, Alexander “Shondor” Birns.[1]

On 7 November 1952, the Cleveland police surveilled Birns when he made a telephone call from a phone booth in a neighborhood drugstore.  Subsequently, the telephone company provided information on that call.  It was made to another phone booth located in the lobby of “The Desert Inn,” a casino and hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  While one Wilbur Clark is the original owner and public face of “The Desert Inn,” Las Vegas police believe that the real owner now is Morris “Moe” Dalitz.[2]

On 14 November 1952, the Cleveland police surveilled Birns at one of his restaurants, where he uses a back office for business.  Here he met two other men.  One was easily identified as “Moe” Dalitz.  Subsequently, police identified the other man as Alexander Berg, an accountant living in Cleveland.

The Bureau assesses that “Berg” is an alias used by Lev Lazarevich Feldbin, b. 1895 in Babryusk, Russian Empire.  Feldbin served as an intelligence officer of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1938.  He had many foreign postings (including in the United States, where he has relatives).  His career peaked in the Spanish Civil War when he served as chief of NKVD operations in the Spanish Republic.  Most of his work involved organizing the murders of non-Communist leftists.  In addition, he managed the transportation of the Spanish Republic’s gold reserve to the Soviet Union “for safe-keeping.”  Feldbin also has experience in “guerrilla” warfare, both in the Russian Civil War and in Spain.

In 1938, as the “Great Purge” spread into the Soviet special services, he abandoned the Soviet Union and fled abroad.  Eventually, we believe, he went underground in this country.

Feldbin is an expert at the clandestine movement of things and people across national borders.  Also, he is an experienced and remorseless killer.

The purposes of the meeting between the three men is not known.

 

EVALUATION.

The obvious explanation for the meeting is that two American organized crime figures have–by some means–identified a renegade Russian intelligence officer living in their area of operations.  They may be recruiting him to their service.  If this is the case, then any rivals to Birns and Dalitz in the Cleveland area can be expected to meet an unhappy fate.

Feldbin’s expertise in the clandestine movement of people and goods might also be useful to Birns and Dalitz.  Thus, Feldbin’s expertise could facilitate the movement of drugs from Mexico to the United States.  The market for such drugs remains limited to marginal populations (Mexican laborers, jazz musicians, and third-tier Hollywood actors like Robert Mitchum).  It does provide a profit stream.

 

[1] Birns was born in 1907 as Alexander Birnstein in Lemes, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His parent immigrated to the United States that same year and settled in Cleveland.  By 1925 Birns had become a professional criminal involved in bootlegging and vice, while also working as a much-feared “enforcer.”  Now, he also owns several celebrated restaurants.

[2] Dalitz was born 1899 in Boston, MA, to parents who had immigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but lived his early life in Michigan.  He became involved in bootlegging during Prohibition, and developed extensive contacts with suppliers in Canada and Mexico.  He also entered illegal gambling, running several important “protected” games in the Mid-West.  For the last half-dozen years he has been a powerful behind-the-scenes figure in Las Vegas, NV.  However, he retains an extensive range of contacts among organized crime figures throughout the country.

Zion Island 1.

“Who’s Who at the Upcoming United Nations Meeting?”, New York Times, 21 November 1953, 7a.

 

The meeting of the United Nations later this month will be unusually well-attended by world leaders.  What follows is a brief guide to the main foreign participants.

It is symbolic of these troubled times that so many current Continental European leaders emerged from the police services.

 

Lavrentiy Beria: b. 1899, Georgia, Russian Empire.  Beria began his career as a “Chekisti” (as Russians still call members of their oft-renamed security police) at age nineteen.  He rose through the ranks at a fast clip, especially after he hitched his wagon to Josef Stalin.  At the same time, and curiously, he surrounded himself with rootless cosmopolitans.  He became the Curator of the “Organs of State Security” under the Khan Josef of Great Russia (as Josef Stalin called himself after the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1941).  He became Khan in his own right upon the death of Khan Josef in the “Doctors’ Plot” of 1953.

 

Joseph Darnand: b. 1897.  War hero in the First World War; involved in national revival movement between the two wars; war hero again in the Second World War; strong supporter of Marshall Philippe Petain; leader of the paramilitary “Milice” domestic security force; Secretary of State for the Maintenance of Order in French Indochina, 1946-1949; Minister of the Interior, 1949-1951, during the Algerian “troubles”; Prime Minister of the French State since the death of Marshall Petain in 1951.  Many people suspected, on the basis of his fighting against the Germans in two wars, that Darnand was anti-German in his own beliefs.  Nothing in his post-war political career has supported this belief.

 

Reinhard Heydrich: b. 1904.  A member of the Nazi Party and of the SS from 1931, he entered the Party’s security service.  From here, he made a meteoric ascent by combining a combination to great intelligence with a tremendous work ethic.  From 1939 he headed the national police.  He became Reichschancellor of Germany upon the deaths of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Goering during the failed “putsch” of 20 July 1944.  (Many rumors surround this event and we shall probably never know the truth.)  Since 1944, Heydrich has been a principle architect of a “United Europe.”  Very much the dispassionate technocrat, Heydrich has pushed forward a series of initiatives for the standardization of European regulations on the German model.

 

Still, not everyone in power these days once wore a badge.

R. A. Butler (called “Rab”): b. 1902. Butler is what the British call a “Tory reformer.” Commonly this means a person of inherited wealth and position who has a powerful sense of the common welfare and the need to use government to promote it.  Before the late war, he stood in the front ranks of those who desired a peaceful accommodation with Germany.  In 1941 he became Foreign Secretary in the cabinet of Lord Halifax and government leader in the House of Commons.  As Foreign Secretary, he negotiated the peace settlement.  Butler then turned his attention to his other policy concerns.  He negotiated the independence of Britain’s Indian Empire (1945).  He succeeded Lord Halifax as prime minister in 1947.  As prime minister, Butler launched important reforms of the British education system.

 

Subas Chandra Bose: b. 1897.  Bose led the younger-generation within the Indian National Congress before the war, then went to Germany in 1940.  Germany’s victory made him the chief interlocutor with R.A. Butler.  The two men worked easily together in arranging the separation.  Subsequently, Bose became the “Netaji” (Respected Leader) of the Indian State.  Although India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Bose’s personal affinity for both Germany and Japan has challenged Anglo-Indian relations.

 

Shigeru Yoshida: b. 1878.  Yoshida came from a background of political activism and wealth.  He spent two decades in the Diplomatic Service, splitting his time between postings in China and in the West.  In 1938, the military clique that dominated the government blocked Yoshida from becoming foreign minister.  After a decade “in the wilderness,” Yoshida became prime minister in 1948.  At this point Japan wished to legitimize its territorial gains and to reform its economy in light of new conditions.  Yoshida is rumored to be a secret Catholic.