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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A Look Back: Puddy Hinkes

Filled with righteous indignation and pride in his People, Puddy Hinkes possessed perhaps a pinch of psychopathy.

"The Nazi scumbags were meeting one night on the second floor," recalled Puddy. "Nat Arno and I went upstairs and threw stink bombs into the room where the creeps were." A burgeoning movement of Nazism began to sweep over the United States in the 1930s. Hinkes and his friend Nat Arno, both former boxers, aimed to squash the threat.

"As they came out of the room, running from the horrible odor of the stink bombs and running down the steps to go into the street to escape, our boys were waiting with bats and iron bars," Hinkes remembered. "It was like running a gauntlet. Our boys were lined up on both sides and we started hitting, aiming for their heads or any other part of their bodies, with our bats and irons. The Nazis were screaming blue murder."

Puddy concluded, "This was one of the most happy moments of my life.”

Puddy loved boxing because he loved violence. While Hinkes watched a boxing match between a Jew and a gentile, a member of the crowd yelled out something crass that Puddy deemed anti-Semitic. Something such as, "Kill the Jew!" Puddy opened his mouth, took out his lit cigar, and extinguished it in the heckler's eye.

Max Hinkes was born on March 18, 1911 in a thriving New Jersey city. Had Prohibition never passed, perhaps he would have followed in the footsteps of his father David, a Yiddish-speaking immigrant from Austria who owned his own construction business. Dora, his mother, would have been so proud of her third-born son. But alcohol became illegal in 1920. Newark would house more speakeasies than Manhattan as crime derailed the city's progress. Longie Zwillman, Max's future boss who was based in Newark's Jewish Third Ward, had a hand in much of the bootlegging on the East Coast.

At 17, Max began his boxing career. BoxRec lists Hinkes, alias Puddy, as 10-1 during his three year career, scoring eight knockouts. He likely fought more than that. His first seven documented bouts were against fighters making their pro debuts. He fought in and around the middleweight division.

Zwillman often used boxers as enforcers for his bootlegging operations including Hinkes and Arno. The end of Prohibition created a void in Zwillman's operations, one that was quickly filled by the rise of Nazism.

As the popularity of Nazism in America grew during the 1930s, Zwillman and his team of enforcers, dubbed the Newark Minutemen, took it upon themselves to protect Jewish Americans by violently confronting these Nazi sympathizers. Puddy took particular delight in maiming Nazis.

Myron Sugerman, a former Newark gangster, recalled, "When the goyim, particularly the Irish toughs, would come into the Prince Street area, where the Jews congregated in Newark, and they would beat up elderly Jews or belittle them and pull their beards, the old Jews would holler for Puddy. And Puddy provided physical protection for these old-timers... It was Puddy's great pleasure to take a stick and beat a bunch of guys and break heads. He loved a good fight."

Puddy worked for Longie until Zwillman's passing in 1959. Without Zwillman's protection, Hinkes soon fell on hard times.

He ran a card room and sports betting operation on Chancellor Avenue when Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg came looking for a fellow who owed him money. Konigsberg destroyed the place, which forced Puddy to talk to members of the Italian mob for protection.

Hinkes was soon warned that the authorities were searching for him, so he fled to New York and laid low. When he resurfaced, the Italian mob had taken over his numbers racket.

Years later, an older Jew spoke with Sugerman. "Myron, help out Puddy, even though he is no fucking good and nobody has a good word to say about him. We have to help him out, because it is a disgrace for the Jews that we don't help out one of our own. So, see if you can give him a job,” Sugerman recalls the old man saying.

Puddy, who was 80 years old by this point, was installed as president of one of Sugerman's shell companies. When the company was raided and Hinkes found himself before a federal judge, a prosecutor questioned him about his role in the company. After Puddy explained his duties, the prosecutor seemed unimpressed, "Then in fact, Mr. Hinkes, you do very little as president of the company.” Puddy responded, "Mr. Prosecutor, for $10,000 a year, what would you do?”

On April 8, 1995 in Essex, New Jersey, Max "Puddy" Hinkes died. Few shed a tear for the man Sugerman describes as "not someone very appreciated by anybody," but the world undeniably became a less colorful place.

Barry, Leslie K. Newark Minutemen. 2020.
Deitche, Scott. Garden State Gangland: The Rise of the Mob in New Jersey. 2018.
Donahue, Greg. The Minuteman. 2020.
Rockaway, Robert A. "Hoodlum Hero: The Jewish Gangster as Defender of His People, 1919-1949." American Jewish History. Vol. 82, No 1/4. 1994. Pgs. 215-235.

1 comment:

  1. Hinkes was a man's man.. They don't make Jews like that anymore unfortunately..