BIRNS, ALEX "SHONDOR" (21 Feb. 1905-29 Mar. 1975), a notorious criminal, was involved in rackets, PROSTITUTION, theft, assault, and murder from the days of Prohibition until his death. Born to Herman and Illon Birn, the family immigrated to Cleveland from Austria-Hungary in 1907. He grew up on Woodland Ave., an accomplished athlete, quick with his fists, and with a volatile temper. He enjoyed notoriety, treating journalists who labeled him "Public Enemy No. 1" very well. Birns dropped out of school after 10th grade in 1922, enlisting in the Navy in 1923 but being discharged 6 months later because he was underage. He began selling bootleg whiskey. Birns's criminal record was extensive, ranging from vagrancy to murder. He was first arrested, for car theft, in 1925, serving about a year in Mansfield Reformatory. Birns was afterwards arrested a number of times but served little time in jail, having friends among lawyers, judges, and policemen, and buying off or silencing witnesses. Birns operated the Ten-Eleven Club and the Alhambra restaurant, often treating off-duty policemen, lawyers, and journalists. In 1942 he was arrested by U.S. immigration officials as an enemy alien, since he was still a Hungarian citizen; and for years, officials tried to deport Birns; however, no country would accept him.
Birns married twice. His first marriage was in 1952. He and his wife, Jane, had one son, Michael (d. 1978). They divorced in 1964 and Birns then married Allene Leonards. In the spring of 1975, Birns was released from a short stay in jail and announced that he was going to go straight, but he was killed by a bomb planted in his automobile. No one was arrested for his murder.Last Modified: 10 Jul 1997 05:10:59 PM