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Giuseppe ZANGARA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Attempted to kill United States President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 15, 1933
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: September 7, 1900
Victim profile: Anton J. Cermak, 60 (mayor of Chicago)
Method of murder: Shooting (.32 caliber pistol)
Location: Miami, Florida, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Florida on March 20, 1933
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Giuseppe Zangara (September 7, 1900 March 20, 1933) attempted to kill United States President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933.

Zangara was born in Ferruzano, Italy. After serving in the Tyrolian Alps in World War One, Zangara did a variety of menial jobs in his home town before emigrating with his uncle in Paterson, New Jersey, to the United States in 1923. On September 11, 1929, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Zangara, a poorly educated brick layer, who liked to eat banana splits was driven mad by the constant sharp pain in his abdomen, later attributed to adhesions of the gall bladder. It was difficult for him to work due to both his physical and mental conditions, and in his fevered mind came to believe the President of the United States was somehow supernaturally actively causing his pain.

Further, he was a very lonely man; he blamed authority figures for his pain, but the side effects of his condition included chronic flatulence, while his outspoken and impatient nature likely pushed other people away.

Other sources report that Zangara envied those who had more than he did, and sought the assassination of "all capitalist presidents and kings." Zangara began plotting to assassinate the current president Herbert Hoover, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was elected to replace him before Zangara could act on his plan. Zangara would later say, "Hoover and Roosevelt everybody the same."

On February 15, 1933, FDR was giving a speech in Bayfront Park in the city of Miami, Florida where Zangara was living, working the occasional odd job, and living off his savings. Zangara took a .32 caliber pistol, purchased at a local pawn shop, and joined the crowd.

However, being only five feet tall, he was unable to see over other people and had to stand on a wobbly, folding, metal chair to get a clear aim at his target. After the first shot a woman jostled his arm and he fired five more shots wildly. He missed the President-Elect.

Five other people were hit including Chicago mayor Anton Cermak who was sitting next to FDR. En route to the hospital, Cermak had allegedly told FDR, "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President." Roosevelt himself was remarkably poised.

Cermak died of a complications brought about by an abdominal wound 19 days later, on March 6, 1933, two days after Roosevelt's inauguration, the only fatality of the shootings.

Only two weeks later, on March 20, 1933, Zangara was executed in Old Sparky, the electric chair at Florida State Penitentiary after being convicted of Cermak's murder.

According to Florida law, because Zangara intended murder it was irrelevant that his intended target was not who he killed; 1st Degree Murder was applicable.

Also according to Florida law, a convicted murderer could not share cell space with another prisoner before his execution, but another convicted murderer was already awaiting execution at Raiford. Zangara's sentence required prison officials to expand their waiting area, and the "death cell" became "Death Row."

Giuseppe Zangara's last words were spoken to the judge present at his execution, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair! You one of capitalists. You is crook man too. Put me in electric chair. I no care! Get to hell out of here, you son of a bitch [spoken to the attending minister]... I go sit down all by myself... Viva Italia! Goodbye to all poor peoples everywhere!... Lousy capitalists! No picture! Capitalists! No one here to take my picture. All capitalists lousy bunch of crooks. Go ahead. Pusha da button!"

Raymond Moley a leading criminologist interviewed Zangara in depth and concluded he was not part of a radical plot, and that he was gunning for Roosevelt. All major historians agree with Moley.

Nevertheless some conspiracy ideas circulated in Chicago at the time to the effect that Zangara was a hitman hired by the Capone faction of the Chicago Mafia as a diversion for a second killer --who never fired a shot and was never seen--to shoot Cermak, an enemy of the Capone mob, not Roosevelt.

Chicagoans genuinely mourned the passing of Cermak, and attributing his death to some tangible, conspiratorial reason, instead of an accidental collision with a deranged assassin's bullet, was likely part of the city's necessary grieving process.

Zangara is one of the assassins portrayed in Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's musical Assassins.

References

  • Davis, Kenneth S. FDR: The New York Years: 1928-1933 (1994)

  • Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Triumph (1956)

  • Picchi, Blaise. The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara: The Man Who Would Assassinate FDR (1998)

Wikipedia.org

 
 

GUISEPPE ZANGARA (1900-1933)

Guiseppe Zangara, also known as Joseph Zangara, is infamous for the murder of the mayor of Chicago, Anton J. Cermak during an assasination attempt on President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt. He believed that capitalists were to blame for not punishing his father, who caused him to have a 'burning stomach'. His stomach caused him constant agony for over half his life, and he never knew why.

Guiseppe Zangara was born September 7, 1900 in Ferruzzano, Italy. When he was two years old, his mother died. Shortly thereafter, his father was married to a widow who had six daughters. The expanded family, already poor, endured severe hardship and soon food became scarce.

When Zangara was six he started school, but after two months, his father took him out of school and put him to work. He was put to work digging deep ditches and hauling heavy bricks and stones. The strenuous work, combined with the lack of nourishment at such a young age, probably was a contributing factor to his slight build. He developed a burning stomach ache, and the pain began to drive him mad. His entire life began to revolve around his stomach pain and his health.

Zangara hated his father and blamed him for the horrible stomach pain he endured. He believed that his father should be punished, but the lousy capitalists in Italy were too busy to help him. Thus he developed a deep hatred for everyone who was rich or worked in government. Driven mad with pain, he came to believe that if he could kill the leader of the capitalists, his stomach pain might go away. He plotted to assassinate King Victor Emmanuel III, but left for the United States before carrying out his plan.

On August 18, 1923 he and his uncle left Italy for the United States of America on the steamship Martha Washington and arrived in Philadelphia on September 2, 1923. He secured a job as a bricklayer in New Jersey. He and his uncle lived together for a year until his uncle married. Zangara and his new aunt did not get along well, so he moved out. He lived very frugally and saved most of his money, allowing him the freedom to travel. He traveled to Panama and California in hopes that the warmer climate would help his stomach.

Finally he moved to Miami, Florida and again was working as a brick layer. In 1926 he went to see doctors about his stomach, who removed his appendix hoping that would solve the problem. However, it did not. On September 11, 1929, Zangara became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In 1932, as the Great Depression had started to effect him, his stomach pain grew progressively worse. He decided that if he were to assassinate President Herbert Hoover the problem would be solved, because everyone said Hoover was to blame for the Depression. However, Hoover lost the presidential election to Democratic candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

On February 13, 1933, Zangara bought a .32 caliber pistol for $4 at a local drugstore, and planned to take a bus to Washington D.C. the next day. While walking to the bus station, he saw newspaper headlines reporting that President-elect Franklin Roosevelt was visiting the Miami area the next day. He was scheduled to make a speech at the Bayfront Park.

On February 15th, just after 9am Franklin Roosevelt arrived at Bayfront Park in a light blue Buick. Because he was crippled by polio as a child, he gave a short speech from inside the car. Well wishers crowded around the car to see Roosevelt. One of the well wishers was the Mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak.

At this time Zangara was trying to work his way to the front of the crowd so he could shoot. Because he was so short, only 5 feet tall, it was very hard for him to see his target. He climbed on top of an old unstable wooden chair and started to fire. A woman in front of him saw what he was doing and tried to push Zangara's demure 105-pound frame off of the chair.

Zangara fired five bullets and hit five people. Roosevelt was not one of them, but Cermak was. Cermak suffered from an abdominal wound and was taken immediately to the hospital in Roosevelt's car. On the way, FDR embraced Cermak and told him that it would be okay. Cermak's response was "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President."

After the arresting Zangara, doctors examined him and discovered severe ulcers as the cause of his chronic pain. Zangara was put on trial and sentenced to 84 years for injuring bystanders during his attempt to kill Roosevelt. He pleaded guilty and showed no remorse except for missing Roosevelt.

When Cermak died on March 3, Zangara was put on trial for his murder and was sentenced to death in the electric chair at the Florida State Penitentiary in Raiford. When he heard his sentence he yelled at the judge, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair! You're one of capitalists. You is crook man too. Put me in electric chair. I no care!"

On March 20, Zangara walked to the electric chair unaided and not afraid. He yelled and cursed at the guards. After a shroud was placed over his head, he screamed, "Lousy capitalists! No picture! Capitalists! No one here to take my picture. All capitalists lousy bunch of crooks. Go ahead. Push the button!" The guard pulled the switch and Zangara was no more. He had no family or friends present, and his unclaimed remains were buried in an unmarked grave at the prison.

Eastland Memorial Society - Getnet.com

 
 

Giuseppe Zangara

Giuseppe Zangara attempts to assassinate President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami's Bayfront Park. Instead, he mortally wounds Chicago mayor Anton J. Cermak. In perhaps one of the shortest periods of time between crime and execution (32 days), Zangara is executed on March 20, 1933 in Florida's electric chair. The bizarre story of Zangara is detailed in a book by Blaise Picchi entitled "The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara: The Man Who Would Assassinate FDR."

The following is an excerpt from a review of that book, written by Florence King.

"At 9:15 on the evening of February 15, 1933, the greatest "what if" in American history was played out in Miami's Bayfront Park. The attempted assassination of President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt is almost forgotten today, but for connoisseurs of Fate there is nothing quite like it.

FDR arrived at the political rally tanned and relaxed from a deep-sea fishing trip on Vincent Astor's yacht. Sitting atop the back seat of a convertible, he rode slowly through the packed crowds and stopped in front of a stage full of VIPs, among them the mayor of Chicago, Anton J. Cermak. After making a brief speech from the car, he was talking privately with the dignitaries who came down from the stage to greet him when five shots rang out.

Some 30 feet from the car, a man in the third row of spectators was standing on tiptoe on a rickety chair, his arm stretched over the heads in front of him, firing a .32 revolver at the presidential party. Directly behind him was Thomas Armour, a Miami carpenter. Directly in front of him was Mrs. Lillian Cross, wife of a Miami doctor, who was also standing on a chair. Either Armour or Mrs. Cross grabbed the gunman's arm to deflect his aim -- both so claimed afterwards -- or perhaps it was the unsteady chair. Whatever happened, all five shots missed FDR and hit others. Two people were seriously wounded: a Mrs. Mabel Gill and Mayor Cermak.

The crowd and the police pounced on the gunman. The Secret Service ordered FDR's driver to get out of the park but the president-elect countermanded them and went back to pick up the wounded. On the way to the hospital he cradled Anton Cermak's head on his shoulder and kept talking to him -- "Tony, keep quiet, don't move, Tony" -- a steady murmur of encouragement that doctors later said kept Cermak from going into shock.

FDR stayed four hours at the hospital, showing by his actions what he would soon express in words about the need to banish fear. That his behavior this night was fresh in the minds of the nation that heard his First Inaugural address established his presidential bona fides as no mere speech could: The people around FDR were watching him to see how this man who was about to lead a troubled nation would react to the attempt on his life. That February evening he was still an unknown quantity. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination attempt, virtually every word and action of the president-elect was reported to the nation.... Was he frightened? Nervous? Relieved that he had escaped unhurt? Was he rattled or petulant? He was none of those things. He appeared unfazed, calm, deliberate, cheerful -- throughout the shooting itself as well as during its aftermath. He said and did all the right things at the right times: He stopped the car twice to pick up the wounded; he assured the crowd that he was all right; he calmly talked Cermak out of shock, and he visited the victims that night and returned to the hospital the next day with flowers, cards, and baskets of fruit. He had met his first test under fire, and he had impressed not only his associates, but the press and the nation. It was on this note of personal courage, graciousness, and self-confidence that he was to assume the reins of government seventeen days later.

The gunman was a naturalized Italian bricklayer named Giuseppe Zangara who stood all of five-foot-one, hence his awkward firing position. He may be our most interesting assassin, if only because he was a registered Republican whose chief motivation seems to have been hypochondria. Born in 1900 in Calabria, the province at the toe of the boot, he was a sickly child made sicker by a brutal father who beat him, starved him, and put him to work at the age of six, when his chronic stomach pain began. This pain became the central fact of his life. He brought it up constantly during his questioning, interjecting it into his simplistic political views: "I shoot kings and presidents, capitalists got all-a money and I got bellyache all-a time."

He sounded like an anarchist, yet he condemned them along with Communists, Socialists, and Fascists, proudly insisting that his views were "nobody but mine," a claim borne out by a search of his room. Unlike the Oswalds of this world he had no taste for turgid political manifestos; the few books he owned were English-language aids.

Walter Winchell, who was in Miami that night, immediately concluded that Zangara was not a presidential assassin but a hit man for the Chicago mob who had been sent to shoot the man he did in fact shoot: Mayor Anton Cermak. Many people agreed; Cermak was a reform mayor and dedicated anti-Prohibitionist who had made enemies in the underworld, but Zangara insisted that he wanted to shoot only "kings and presidents" and disclaimed all ties to all groups except the bricklayers' union, which, he said, he had joined only because he had to. "I don't like no peoples," he explained.

The FBI investigation proved him right: He belonged to nothing and no one. An atheist, he believed only in "what I see. Land, sky, moon," and said he felt no remorse over wounding Cermak and Mrs. Gill, but his rationale was not so much cold and psychopathic as matter-of-fact and practical: "You can't find a king or a president alone. Lots of people stick around him and you got to take chance to kill him. All the chiefs of people, never alone. The chief of government you no see alone. He go all the time with a bunch."

Since Cermak and Mrs. Gill were still alive, Zangara was arraigned on four counts of assault with intent to kill, with a murder charge pending should one or both of them die. He insisted on pleading guilty, saying, "I kill capitalists because they kill me, stomach like drunk man. No point living. Give me electric chair." Sentenced to four terms of 20 years each, he told the judge, "Don't be stingy, give me hundred." He rejected an appeal.

The whole picture changed for Zangara when Anton Cermak died on March 6, two days after FDR's inauguration. His death came about through a misdiagnosis of his injuries that his doctors tried to cover up by citing a pre-existing condition. This opened a legal door for Zangara to claim that his bullet had not caused Cermak's death, but he insisted on pleading guilty.

He was electrocuted on March 20 in what still stands as the swiftest legal execution in this century. It's a measure of his unknowable personality that he was able to be both stoic and cocky in the death chamber. To the minister intoning sonorous prayers he snapped, "Get to hell out of here, you sonofabitch," and strode toward the chair unassisted, shouting, "I go sit down all by myself." A reporter-witness compared it to a man hopping into a barber's chair. As they put the hood on him he called out, "Viva Italia! Goodbye to all poor peoples everywhere!" His last words, spoken to Sheriff Hardie at the controls, were "Pusha da button!"

The story of the attempt on FDR's life has never been told except in a few magazine articles, but now Florida criminal lawyer Blaise Picchi has filled the 65-year gap with The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara, a book that is impossible to put down. A native Floridian, Picchi paints an evocative picture of a vanished Miami that conveys the texture of a bygone age, interviews the still-living persons who were there on the fatal night, digs up never-published documents, and presents a Zangara who is intriguingly reminiscent of Celine, the French writer who was cleared of charges that he collaborated with the Nazis when the judges agreed that "he was too much of a loner to collaborate with anybody."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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