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What ‘The Godfather’ Got WRONG About Illegal Drugs in America

In the 1977 film The Godfather, the warring Italian mob bosses meet in New York to make peace and to decide how they will divvy up the illegal drug business. Detroit boss “Don Zaluchi” stands up to assure the rest:

I also don’t believe in drugs. For years I paid my people extra so they wouldn’t do that kind of business. Somebody comes to them and says, “I have powders; if you put up three, four thousand dollar investment, we can make fifty thousand distributing.” So, they can’t resist. I want to control it as a business, to keep it respectable. [Slams his hand on the table and shouts:] I don’t want it near schools! I don’t want it sold to children! That’s an infamia [dishonorable]. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people, the coloreds. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.[1]

In this repugnant scene Paramount studio executives intended to illustrate the racist attitudes of the Italians and to suggest to moviegoers that drugs historically infected Black communities through these underworld mafiosos. The Godfather is set in New York directly after World War II, but had the producers consulted the American Jewish Historical Society that mob meeting would have been more appropriately held in a synagogue. According to Jewish scholar Robert A. Rockaway,

After the first World War, Jewish Gangsters became major figures in the American underworld and played prominent roles in the creation and extension of organized crime in the United States. During Prohibition fifty percent of the leading bootleggers were Jews, and Jewish criminals financed and directed much of the nation’s narcotics traffic. Jews also dominated illicit activities in a number of America’s largest cities, including Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, and Philadelphia.[2]

Thanks to the popularity of the Hollywood mafia movie genre, organized crime in America is thought to be an all-Italian enterprise. The Godfather’s producers, Albert S. Ruddy, Peter Bart, and Robert Evans (neé Shapera), are all Jews, and Bart specifically sought an Italian, Francis Ford Coppola, to direct the film. As Evans wrote,

Concocting a bullshit philosophy that Italians, not Jews, must be the creative tissue to make a Mafia film work was what got the picture made….It must be ethnic to the core—you must smell the spaghetti.[3]

It is then noteworthy that the film’s star Marlon Brando, the actor who plays “Godfather Don Vito Corleone,” is not even Italian: “I had never played an Italian before, and I didn’t think I could do it successfully.”[4] Other cast members playing “Italians”—James Caan and Abe Vigoda—are Jewish, and even the racist dope-dealing “Don Zaluchi” was played by Louis Guss, a Jew.

The Godfather is yet another example of how the elusive “Trader” of the Nation of Islam Lessons is “disappeared” by artifice and deception. Today the massive Jewish role in the illegal narcotics trade has been entirely obscured, in no small part because of The Godfather.

The fact is illegal drugs in America have a distinctly Jewish footprint. In 1908 Adolph Ochs, the Jewish owner of the New York Times, made this shocking revelation:

The use of “coke” is probably much more widely spread among negroes than among whites. “Heaven dust” they call it. Its use by negro field hands in the South has spread with appalling swiftness and results. There is little doubt but that every Jew peddler in the South carries the stuff, although many States have lately made its sale a felony.[5]

A generation later, the United States government credited New York Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein with being the sole source of imported narcotics in America.[6] According to the Encyclopedia of American Jewish History, Rothstein actually organized the narcotics trade “into a businesslike machine,” sending buyers all over the world to smuggle in the poison. Thus, by this one man—Arnold Rothstein—narcotics entered the bloodstream of the Black man and woman.

Far from being branded an outcast by the Jewish community, writes Stephen Alexander in his book Jazz Age Jews, “Rothstein’s power became a source of Jewish pride.” When Rothstein was gunned down in 1928, “The accolades of the Yiddish press are impossible to exaggerate.” They spoke of the world’s Number One narcotics trafficker with “affection.” “A sort of saint,” said one; “a devoted husband,” said another; an “aristocrat” and “gentleman” and a philanthropist who gave generously, stressed another. He was given an Orthodox Jewish burial and eulogized by the most prominent rabbi in the country.[7]

Thanks in large part to this Jewish man of sin, by the 1950s Blacks were sixty percent of the nation’s drug addicts, though only ten percent of the population. This was the reality in the major cities throughout America, where racism, joblessness, and general despair made Blacks most vulnerable to the scourge of drugs.

By 1963, the Nation of Islam was well known as the major anti-drug crusader in Harlem and in most major cities. And in that same year, when Congress held hearings on the narcotics traffic in the U.S., federal officials were explicit: “The Jewish racketeers of New York almost exclusively controlled narcotics…”[8]

Internationally, Arnold Rothstein was very likely connected to the India-based Jewish Sassoon family (known as “the Rothschilds of the East”), which held a monopoly of the trade in opium—the resin of the poppy plant that is processed into heroin. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, David Sassoon was sent to Bagdad at an early age—“where he was initiated into Biblical and Talmudic lore”—to prepare him to become an immensely powerful shipper and trader. The Sassoons made their greatest profits from the so-called Opium Wars in the mid-1800s, when Chinese officials banned the opium trade and threatened any offender with the death penalty. The British waged war against the Chinese to keep the lucrative drug markets open. They defeated the Chinese and the resulting influx of narcotics drained the Chinese economy and—just as it would in America’s ghettos—increased the number of addicts.

David Sassoon & Co., which included his eight sons, monopolized opium with branches maintained in Calcutta, Shanghai, Canton, Hong Kong, and Japan. Their drug profits built many Jewish institutions throughout Europe and Asia. “In Bombay he built and munificently endowed a splendid synagogue and established a Talmud Torah school…”[9]

It is speculated that the Sassoons forged business connections that extended to American Jewish gangsters Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, and Jasha Katsenberg.[10] Even when the Italian mobsters moved into the criminal void left by Rothstein’s death in 1928, government investigators added an important footnote:

Elements of this group [Italians] allied themselves with important Jewish racketeers who had sources of supply of heroin in Europe and in Mexico….The narcotics obtained from these sources soon found their way into local and interstate commerce.[11]

Through the aid of “several Jewish racketeers,” they report, the operations of the Italian racketeers were based “in the notorious East 107 Street area of east Harlem, New York City”[12]—as was stated in The Godfather—among “the dark people, the coloreds.

The notorious Greek drug barons, the Eliopoulos brothers, were said to have smuggled “enormous quantities” of opium into the United States, but the Senate hearings named their American accomplices:

Among the more important American narcotic customers of the Eliopoulos brothers were members of Murder, Inc., such as, the late Louis Buchalter alias Lepke, Emanuel Weiss alias Mandy Weiss and their associates. Also included among their customers were the infamous Newman brothers (Charles, George, and Harry, true name: Reiditch), Jack Diamond alias Legs Diamond, Arthur Flegenheimer alias Dutch Schultz, and many others. Also active in this period were Saul Gelb alias Solly Gordon, Harry Stromberg alias Nig Rosen, Harry Meltzer, Meyer Lansky and others.

All Jews. The Italians soon took over street operations and “distributed this heroin in local and interstate commerce,” but according to the Senate report the Jews are in fact behind the activity:

The Jewish underworld element at this time controlled the market while the Italian racketeers attended to the conversion of the opium into heroin and the distribution of the finished product throughout the United States.[13]

In the 1940s–50s the government identified Harold Meltzer as the main smuggler of narcotics from Mexico. In 1954 the New York City office of the Bureau of Narcotics, in cooperation with members of the New York City Police Department, arrested trafficker Saul Gelb, alias Solly Gordon, who was “in possession of a large quantity of heroin and prepared smoking opium.” The government report continued (p. 921):

Gelb supplied heroin to customers who in turn introduced the narcotics in interstate traffic, especially Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. Saul Gelb obtained his supply of heroin from French-Corsican sources. He was active in the traffic since the early 1920’s.[14]

Shortly after Gelb’s arrest, narcotics agents arrested Nathan Behrman and Anthony Vellucci in what was the largest drug seizure in the United States until that time. They were operating Gelb’s business while he was in federal prison. And, again, the government reports: “The heroin handled by Behrman and Vellucci was introduced by their associates in interstate traffic, particularly Detroit, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cleveland.”

These were not isolated incidents; they represent a consistent and well-established Jewish pattern in Black communities. The Jewish merchant, wrote Jewish scholar Dr. Clive Webb, “trad[ed] in all things with African-Americans,” including such socially destructive commodities as beer, wine, liquor,[15] drugs and narcotics. And in so doing, they were “not so much providing the lifeblood of the black community, as injecting it with poison.”[16] Certainly, the damage done by the Jewish infusion of narcotics to Black individuals and communities for generations is incalculable.

And while the Jewish producers of The Godfather schemed to make Italians culpable in the American mind, they also worked to create the image of Black criminality. And this criminalizing of Blacks by the Jews is significant because at the very same time, organized crime in gambling, bootleg liquor, prostitution, and narcotics was on an upsurge in America—and Jews were at the helm of it all. Even murder was turned into a Jewish business. In the 1930s and beyond, the notorious Murder, Inc., carried out contract killings all over America. With their corporate headquarters at Rosie Gold’s candy store in Brooklyn, these Jewish ice pick killers were estimated to have murdered 1,000 innocent human beings for fees ranging from $1,000 to $5,000—a résumé of bloody violence that would even horrify The Godfather.



[1] It is ironic that the Zaluchi character is planning to dump his narcotics among the “coloreds” exactly where Master Fard Muhammad chose to begin the Nation of Islam in America, and Detroit is where  the murderous Purple Gang was run by Abe Bernstein, born in New York to Russian-Jewish immigrants.

[2] Robert A. Rockaway, “Hoodlum Hero: The Jewish Gangster as Defender of His People,” American Jewish History 82, nos. 1–4 (1994–95): 215.

[3] Robert Evans, The Kid Stays in the Picture (New York: Hyperion, 1994), 222, 225. According to Evans (p. 226), Coppola at first refused the job: “To his credit, his convictions were strong in not wanting to immortalize the families that blackened his Italian heritage.”

[4] Brando’s  ancestry was mostly German, Dutch, English, and Irish. See Michael Sragow, “Godfatherhood: Twenty-five years later, Francis Ford Coppola thinks it’s a mixed blessing,” Annals of Moviemaking, New Yorker, March 24, 1997,

[5] Emphasis ours. “The Growing Menace of the Use of Cocaine,” New York Times, Aug. 2, 1908, SM1.

[6] See U.S. Senate, Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics: Hearings Before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, Senate Resolutions 17 and 278, 88th Congress, 1st session, Congressional Record, vol. 5, pts. 4–6 (Washington, DC: Govt. Printing Office, 1963).

[7] Michael Alexander, Jazz Age Jews (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001), 59–61.

[8] U.S. Senate Hearings, Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics. Also NOI Research Group, “How Farrakhan Solved The Crime & Drug Problem…And How The Jews Attacked Him,” Oct. 25, 2015, See also the Associated Press News report on the positive impact of the NOI’s anti-drug stance, distributed nationwide, as in the Los Angeles Times, Dec. 27, 1992, B1, B6: “Patrols by Nation of Islam Cut Violence: Security Teams Cut Down on Drugs and Crime.”

[9] See Jewish Encyclopedia (1905), s.v. “Sassoons.”

[10] Hans Derks, History of the Opium Problem: The Assault on the East, ca. 1600–1950 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 698.

[11] U.S. Senate Hearings, Organized Crime and Illicit Traffic in Narcotics, 919.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Gelb was sentenced to 5 years in prison following his conviction in this case.

[15] Such as the Bronfman family of liquor dealers. According to Stephen Birmingham, “The Rest of Us”: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984), 182, “[B]y 1920, much of the Prohibition liquor trade was in Jewish hands, and a good number of the speakeasies and nightclubs…were also Jewish-owned.” Also ibid., 198, 199. See Leonard Rogoff, Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2010), 121. Samuel Bronfman, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, built the Seagram Company into the world’s largest distiller and marketer of spirits and wines, which, during Prohibition, netted illegal profits that “amounted to close to eight hundred million dollars” from the smuggling of liquor to the United States. In fact, Bronfman “was bootleggin’ enough whiskey across the Canadian border to double the size of Lake Erie. It was no wonder that wags in the liquor trade were beginning to refer to Lake Erie as ‘the Jewish lake.’” See Lenni Brenner, Jews in America Today (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1986), 67; Birmingham, “The Rest of Us,” 156, 233. In the book Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition, author Marni Davis impresses upon her readers that the business of “booze” was a Jewish specialty.

[16] Clive Webb, “A History of Black–Jewish Relations in the American South, 1790–1970” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Cambridge, 1997), 115.

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