It was thin rail (140 pounds – tops) and strikingly beautiful. Still, Ali Tanenbaum, who started as a worker at his father's Catskill hotel, has become one of Murder Incorporated's most accomplished killers. Tannenbaum also became a rat who helped put his boss, Louis "Lepke" Bookletter in the electric chair.
Tanenbaum was born on January 17, 1906 in Nanticoke, PA. When Tannenbaum was only two years old, his father Sam moved the family to Orchard Street, in the lower east side of Manhattan. In New York, Sam Tanenbaum, as well as in Pennsylvania, operated a common store. As a teenager, Ali Tanenbaum had a habit of always talking, talking, talking. He talked so much, people said it sounded like a clock – hence the nickname Tick Tock.
After World War I, Sam Tanenbaum raised enough money to buy the Loch Sheldrake Country Club in Catskills, New York. By the time his father bought the village club, Ali was already in his third year of high school (later also attending college for several semesters). This was quite an achievement, as most boys of the Tannenbaum age in the Lower East Side had already dropped out of school after grade 8 and were working in jobs, some legal and others not so legal. Taking advantage of his son, Sam Tanenbaum hired Ali at his hotel, either waiting at tables or setting up beach chairs by the lake. Despite the early hard work he had imposed on his son, Sam Tannenbaum raised Ali as his replacement. Yet it was not to be.
The Loch Sheldrake Country Club was a ritual establishment and housed many wealthy Jewish families for their summer vacations. Jewish gangsters also visited the village club. Among them were Harry Greeny Greenberg, Louis Lepke and his partner Jacob Gura Shapiro. Shapiro was a thick-breasted gorilla of a man who supplied the muscle for many of Lepke's illegal businesses. Whenever Shapiro was angry, and often was, his favorite phrase was, "Get out of here." Yet, with his gravelly voice, the phrase sounded like "Gura is nowhere". Therefore, his friends gave him the nickname Shapiro Gura.
Ali Tanenbaum met some of the visitors to the country clubs, including Shimi Salsa, who was a stickler for the Lepke rockets, Curley Holtz, racketeering and even Lepke himself. As the owner's son, the Jewish gangsters invited Tannenbaum to all their parties. According to the arrangement with his father, Tannenbaum did not receive a single penny, just after the summer, which basically ended the holiday season. As Tanenbaum walked around his father's resort home dead, he noticed that all the Jewish gangsters had enough money to carry around. This made him suspected in their world of organized crime.
In the late summer of 1931, Tanenbaum was walking on Broadway in Manhattan when he came across Big Harry Shakter, one of Lepke's foothills.
Schacter asked Tannenbaum: "Do you want a job?"
"I could use it if it paid," Tanenbaum said.
Shaktor smiled. "This one is for Lepke. You know what the job will be."
Tanenbaum shrugged and said he would do whatever it took to earn some fantastic money.
Tannenbaum started working for Lepke, initially for $ 35 a week. His work included common tasks such as dropping, destroying blows and throwing stink bombs where they had to be thrown. Later, Tannenbaum completed more important duties, such as "shame", which meant that he was "ashamed" or cracked the heads of union workers who did not drag Lepke's line.
As production increased, Tannenbaum's salary increased. In the end, Tannenbaum, who had hitherto been involved in six murders and helped dispose of the body of seven homicide victims, was earning an impressive $ 125 a week. Because of Tannenbaum's summer location in the Catskills, his work included mostly murders and blackmail in New York. Tanenbaum was a valuable asset for Lepke in Sullivan County, as Tanenbaum was familiar with the back roads and the many lakes where bodies could be harvested. In the winter, Tanenbaum and his family relaxed in Florida, where Tanenbaum worked as a strong-arm man in several gambling joints at Lepke.
Tannenbaum's biggest hit on Lepke was the 1939 assassination of Harry "Big Green" Greenberg, who was suspected of talking to the government about Lepke's business. Tannenbaum was given the assignment to kill Greenberg by Lepke through one of Lepke's mediators (to isolate himself from any link to the murder, Lepke himself never gave orders to his killers).
Tanenbaum lurks Greenberg, first to Montreal, then to Detroit, before finally striking Greenberg in Los Angeles. On November 23, 1939, Tanenbaum, along with Buggy Seagle, were waiting outside the Greenberg building. When Greenberg emerged, Tanenbaum and Siegel pushed the Big Throat with bullets. This is considered the first "murder of a mafia" in southern California.
In 1940, Tanenbaum was vacationing in Florida when he received news that Lepke had been arrested and that the homicide slayer, Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, now sings as a canary for the work of "Murder Incorporated." Tanenbaum immediately took the train to New York and went to the house of Charlie the Bug's worker, another of Lepke's best killers. The reason for Tannenbaum's visit was that he sought funding from Workman to go to the Detroit gang. While luck would have it, as Tanenbaum and Workman were sitting in Workman's living room, Detective Abraham Belsky knocked on the door to arrest Workman. Belski was pleasantly surprised to find Tanenbaum there as well.
At first, Tanenbaum refused to creak. When Tannenbaum was questioned by police over a three-day period, he repeatedly said, "I refuse to answer on the basis of my constitutional rights."
Dekelman County Prosecutor, however, suddenly struck Tanenbaum with an indictment, blaming Tanenbaum and Pittsburgh Phil Strauss for the 1936 murder of Irv Ashkenaz, a taxi owner who roared on the cops in the cabin of the Manhattan cabin. Ashkenaz's body was found near the entrance of the Catskills Hotel, pierced with sixteen bullets.
"We have enough of you to put you on the chair," Dekelman District Attorney told Tannenbaum.
Suddenly, Tannenbaum, alive with his nickname Tick Tock, began to speak incessantly. Tanenbaum told Dekelman about all the killings he was involved in and how they were linked to Lepke.
At the witness stand, during Lepke's track, Tannenbaum put the last nail in Lepke's casket when he testified about the day he heard Lepke order the murder of the owner of a candy store named Joe Rosen. Lepke was always cool and collected and careful about what he said to anyone. In fact, Lepke never gave a direct order to Tanenbaum to kill. This information was always transmitted to Tannenbaum through an intermediary close to Lepke.
In 1936, however, Tannenbaum was ordered by Mandy Weiss to kill Irv Ashkenaz. However, Tannenbaum was told by Weiss to report directly to Lepke when the case was completed. After Ashkenaz's dismissal, Tannenbaum went downtown to Lepke's center to tell Lepke that Ashkenaz was indeed dead. When he entered Lepke's office, Tanenbaum came across an angry Lepke, shouting at Max Rubin, one of Lepke's closest confidants.
Tannenbaum testified to the witness before District Attorney Burton Turkus: "Lepke yelled that he gave Joe Rosen money to go, and then he sneaks back to the candy store after telling him to stay away. Lepke swore: "There's a son of a bitch who will never come down to talk to Dewey about me. Max (Rubin) was trying to calm him down. He said, "easier; easier Louis. I'll deal with Joe Rosen; he is fine. ""
"What did you say to this Lepke?" asked Turkus Tanenbaum.
Tannenbaum replied, "He says, 'You told me this before.' He says, "This is the end. I'm annoying this son of a bitch. " He says, "I'll take care of him, too."
Tannenbaum testified that two days after his meeting with Lepke and Rubin, in Lepke's office, he read in the newspaper that Joe Rosen had been shot 16 times while opening his candy store in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Tannenbaum's testimony related to Rosen's murder corroborates Abe Reles's testimony and was a lethal blow to Lepke. It took the jury only four hours to convict Lepke of first-degree murder, which landed Lepke in the electric chair four years later. For his testimony against Lepke Tanenbaum received a short sentence of imprisonment, a slight slap on the wrist of a man who committed at least six murders.
Little is known about what Tannenbaum did for the rest of his life. He seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth, except for the times when he reappeared to testify against his old murderous friends. In Rich Cohen's Book of Difficult Jews, Cohen says, in the 1950s, Tannenbaum worked in Atlanta for some time as a shade salesman.
In 1950, Tanenbaum emerged from the timber and testified in the murder trial of Jack Parisi, another man killed by a murder who had been on the lamb for ten years. Despite Tannenbaum's testimony, the judge found Paris guilty.
In 1976, unlike most of his contemporaries, Tanenbaum died of natural causes on an unnamed island off the coast of Florida. He was 70 years old.