The Violent Years: Prohibition and The Detroit Mobs
The Violent Years, a companion volume to author Paul Kavieff’s best-selling book, The Purple Gang, is the story of Prohibition-era Detroit, a place of tremendous wealth and brutal violence. For those found with new prosperity after World War I ended, it became a status symbol to have one’s own personal bootlegger and to hobnob with known gangsters. Not only did they supply the booze, they carried with them an aura of excitement and danger. Numerous gangs scrambled to grab a piece of the profit to be made selling illegal liquor which resulted in gruesome gang warfare among the many European ethnic groups that were involved. Among these were the Italian Giannola and Vitale gangs, the Irish “Legs” Laman Gang and the Polish Jaworski gang. All the while, author Paul Kavieff manages to provide insight into how so many immigrants gravitated to crime and why the public tolerated it for as long as they did.
robberies. He also told the arresting officers that he “might have shot a cop or two.” Andrew Germano, like Laman, was a career criminal. Born in Italy in 1900, Germano was brought to the U.S. with his family at age seven and grew up in Flint, Michigan. He was first arrested in Flint for carrying a concealed weapon in 1920. In late November of 1921, Germano was convicted of armed robbery as a consequence of participating in a Flint holdup. On December 3, 1921, he was sent to Marquette Prison. He
envelopes into their satchels, Mrs. Mary Lunger, an elevator operator at the News, stopped her car on the second floor. The two gangsters who had been guarding the entrances to the editorial offices heard the floor bell ring as the elevator came to a stop. One of them ran over to the elevator entrance and waited for the doors to open. Unaware that there was a robbery in progress, Lunger opened the doors of her elevator car. Instantly, the gunman lunged through the opening and grabbed hold of the
George Barstad, who had been on duty directing traffic at the corner of Second and Lafayette, parked his traffic semaphore at the curb. At this point, the five bandits came pounding down the staircase into the lobby. One of them raced up to Sloan, who was still struggling with the gate. Shoving a pistol into Sloan’s side, the gunman yelled, “Lookout!” Sloan jumped aside. Officer Barstad opened the outside door to the vestibule at the same time that the first bandit entered the foyer. The outlaw
Like Paul Jaworski, Podolski was also a product of “the back alleys of Hamtramck.” Known as “Big Stack” because of his size, 6’2” and 210 pounds, Podolski became a close friend of Paul Jaworski and his mentor in crime. Jaworski and his group of thugs began their criminal careers robbing filling stations in Detroit and Hamtramck. Under the tutelage of Stanley “Big Stack” Podolski, the Jaworski Gang quickly graduated to robbing banks The Jaworski Gang divided their time between Detroit and
general alarm had been sounded and members of the Cleveland police force surrounded the building, exchanging shots with Jaworski. A crowd estimated to have been at least 500 people watched the gun battle. Under withering gunfire from the Cleveland police, Jaworski jumped from the roof back into the apartment house, eventually barricading himself in a first-floor kitchen. Hundreds of shots were fired into the apartment building. Finally, the police began to fire tear gas into the flat. They fired