The notorious New York City gangster Dutch Schultz is believed to have hidden a treasure of more than $50 million dollars somewhere in upstate New York. After a life of murder, bootlegging, and illegal gambling, Schultz was killed by opposing gang members in 1935, taking the location of his money with him to the grave. The search for Dutch Schultz’s treasure continues to this day and is the subject of a new PBS documentary airing tonight, Secrets of the Dead: Gangster’s Gold.
Dutch Schultz was born to German-Jewish immigrants as Arthur Simon Flegenheimer. He grew up in poverty in the Bronx, turning to crime to support his family after his father abandoned them. At the age of 17, he served a 17-month prison sentence for burglary. He continued his life of crime as a member of a youth gang, earning the name “Dutch Schultz” (Dutch, a play on the word Deutsch, meaning German).
With the start of Prohibition in 1920, New York City was overtaken by organized crime. Bootlegging became highly profitable, and Schultz and his gang began an illegal beer business that threatened bar owners with violence if they did not buy from them. The lucrative operation expanded from the Catskill Mountains and the Bronx to Manhattan, where territorial conflicts with other gangs embroiled Schultz in several gang feuds, all of which he successfully overcame. He turned to illegal gambling to add to his income, and his fortune continued to multiply.
A portrait of Dutch Schulz from the Library of Congress
Schultz’s downfall began in 1933, when he was indicted for tax evasion by prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Witnesses were unwilling to testify against Schultz out of fear, resulting in his acquittal — but Dewey, a successful lawyer and the future governor of New York, continued to pursue Schultz. Dewey was a celebrated public figure, working with former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to fight New York City’s large mafia presence as a Special Prosecutor. He convicted prominent gangsters Lucky Luciano and Waxey Gordon in the past.
Thomas E. Dewey, the prosector and future mayor who went after Schultz. Image from Library of Congress.
Schultz’s demise would ultimately be caused not by Dewey, but his fellow mobsters. Schultz made plans to kill Dewey against the mafia’s orders, resulting in the governing body of the mafia hiring two Murder, Inc. hitmen to open fire on Schultz and his associates while they ate at the Palace Chop Restaurant in Newark, New Jersey on October 23, 1935. The site is now the parking lot. Next door, the hotel TRYP has a bar named for Schultz, called “Dutch’s Lounge.”
The Esopus Creek in The Catskills in upstate New York where the PBS documentary goes searching for the Dutch Schultz’s gold. This photo was taken from the Emerson Resort and Spa very close to the site searched.
Schultz had kept his fortune in a safe rather than trusting banks during the turbulent economic times of the Great Depression. Worried that Dewey might incarcerate him, Schultz had driven to an unknown location and buried the box in upstate New York before his death. In Schultz’s box are believed to be diamonds, gold coins, gold-backed $1,000 bills, and uncashed bonds, in total worth $50 to $150 million dollars today. For nearly a century, treasure hunters have scoured the Catskills in search of the long lost treasure.
An abandoned house thought to be a hideout for Schultz and his gang. Photo credit: Yap Films
The treasure hunters in the television show use old photographs, maps, radar, metal detectors and other tools to aid their search. They come across an abandoned still in the woods, exactly where the map has located it to be, an abandoned house believed to have been a hideout for Dutch’s gang, and try to break down bricked up hidden tunnels in their quest.
Photo credit: Yap Films
The only living member of Schultz’s gang, Stanley Grauso, is interviewed in the PBS documentary Secrets of the Dead: Gangster’s Gold. At 104 years old, Grauso recalls Dutch Schultz’s reign as a powerful crime boss and his intense feud with adversary Thomas Dewey. Using modern technology and decades of research, three groups of professional treasure hunters advance the nearly century-long search for Schultz’s hidden treasure in the Catskills, searching for what remains of the infamous gangster’s legacy.
Secrets of the Dead: Gangster’s Gold premieres tonight, Wednesday, November 18 at 10 p.m. on PBS.
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