100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Witness In Police Corruption Trial Shot In New York

Herman Rosenthal was a New York gangster who was being extorted by a corrupt police Lieutenant Charles Becker. After he spoke to a journalist about police corruption and was called to testify to a grand jury, Rosenthal was gunned down in the street in front of a hotel.


The murder was front page news and would not go away. The Manhattan DA made no secret of his belief that the gangsters had committed the murder at Becker’s behest. Amid a major public outcry Becker was transferred to the Bronx and assigned to desk duty. At the end of July 1912 Becker was arrested by special detectives from the District Attorney’s Office. In August 1912 Becker was indicted by a grand jury for the killing of Herman Rosenthal along with the gunmen and others.

Zelig Harry Lefkowitz was raised in New York City’s lower East side and was involved with gangs there as a child. By the time he was 20, Lefkowiitz was know as Jack Zelig and head of the Monk Eastman gang. It was Zelig’s men that committed the murder of Herman Rosenthal at Becker request. The case was making national headlines and it was rumored that Zelig would testify against Becker and his gang members for leniency.

On October 5, 1912 two days before Becker’s trial is to begin Zelig was hanging out at Segal’s Cafe when he received an anonymous phone call requesting his presence. Zelig jumped on the uptown trolley. While riding the trolley Zelig was shot behind the ear and killed a man with a police revolver. The shooter was run down and arrested by a beat policeman. Zelig was 24 years old.

Jack Zelig


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