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Historian investigates claim that Bugsy Siegel wanted to kill Goring

In the 1991 film Bugsy, Warren Beatty portrayed Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel as a man with an obsession, not only to build a fabulous resort casino in Las Vegas, but also to murder the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In one scene a swaggering Siegel tells his paramour, Virginia Hill, that he must do so because 'the whole world is being destroyed by Hitler and Mussolini'. In a later exchange with his life-long friend, Meyer Lansky, Siegel explains, with stunning hubris: 'Mussolini and Hitler have to be stopped. They're trying to knock off every Jew on earth. If I don't do something about it, who will?' Siegel is frustrated when, later in the film, the Italian people have eliminated their dictator and deprived him of the opportunity....

In the end what are we to make of Siegel's claim that he wanted to kill Hermann Göring? Was it just another example of the gangster's rash and dangerous impulses, a behaviour pattern that he had developed in the Prohibition struggles? Was he just being petty about having to vacate the Villa Madama so that someone more important could have it for a couple of days? Or did he have a genuine hatred for the Nazis, who were treating European Jews with such savagery? 

[Bugsy] Siegel certainly travelled to Italy with [Countess] Dorothy di Frasso in 1939 and he sought to sell a new explosive to one of the leaders of the Axis powers. In the process, in what can only be called a truly extraordinary coincidence, he met many powerful people, including in all likelihood, Göring. But did he really want to kill the leading Nazi? What if he had done so? It remains tempting to play the counter-factual history game, one fuelled by a number of websites. How might the assassination of Göring have affected the war about to start? One biographer of Göring has concluded that: "He was second only to Hitler in the Nazi movement and in the state. He shared Hitler's ambitions and played a crucial role in the attempt to fulfill them."

Had Siegel killed such a powerful man we might now look upon him more as a hero than as the gangster who built the Flamingo Hotel.

Read entire article at History Today