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|George de Mohrenschildt|
|Born||April 17, 1911|
|Died||March 29, 1977(aged 65)|
Cause of death
|Known for||Befriending Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy|
|George de Mohrenschildt|
|Born||April 17, 1911|
|Died||March 29, 1977(aged 65)|
Cause of death
|Known for||Befriending Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy|
|Part of the series on the|
investigation of the
George de Mohrenschildt (in Russian: Георгий Сергеевич де Мореншильд) (April 17, 1911 – March 29, 1977) was a petroleum geologist and professor who befriended Lee Harvey Oswald in the summer of 1962 and maintained that friendship until Oswald's death, two days after Oswald assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy. His testimony before the Warren Commission investigating the assassination was one of the longest of any witness.
George de Mohrenschildt was born in Mozyr in Tsarist Russia, presently in Belarus, (his birthdate was April 4 in the old style Russian Julian calendar). His wealthy father, Sergey Alexandrovich von Mohrenschildt was a Marshal of Nobility of Minsk Uezd from 1913-1917, and a civil rank of Actual Civil Councilor corresponding to Major General. He was arrested by the Bolsheviks shortly after the Russian Revolution for anti-Communist activities. Sergey was sentenced to life in exile in Veliky Ustyug, a town in the North of Russia, but before this he managed to escape with his family to Poland in 1922. George graduated from a Polish military academy in 1931, and, having completed a dissertation on the economic influence of the U.S. on Latin America, he received a doctor of science degree in international commerce from the University of Liège in Belgium in 1938.
George de Mohrenschildt immigrated to the United States in May 1938. Upon his arrival, British intelligence reportedly told the U.S. government that they suspected he was working for German intelligence. By some accounts, he was under FBI surveillance for a time. De Mohrenschildt was hired by the Shumaker company in New York City, which also employed a man named Pierre Fraiss who had connections with French intelligence. According to de Mohrenschildt, he and Fraiss, among their other duties, gathered information about people involved in "pro-German" activities, such as those bidding for U.S. oil leases on behalf of Germany before the U.S. became involved in World War II. De Mohrenschildt testified that the purpose of their data-collection was to help the French out-bid the Germans.
De Mohrenschildt spent the summer of 1938 with his older brother Dimitri von Mohrenschildt on Long Island, New York. Dimitri was a staunch anti-Communist and member of the OSS and one of the founders of the CIA's Radio Free Europe and Amcomlib (a.k.a., Radio Liberty) stations. His contacts included top officials of the CIA. (Dimitri died at the age of 100 in 2002.)
While in New York, de Mohrenschildt became acquainted with the Bouvier family, including young Jacqueline, future wife of John F. Kennedy. Jacqueline grew up calling de Mohrenschildt "Uncle George" and would sit on his knee. He became a close friend of Jacqueline's aunt Edith Bouvier Beale.
De Mohrenschildt dabbled in the insurance business from 1939 to 1941, but failed to pass his broker's examination. In 1941, he became associated with Film Facts in New York, a production company owned by his cousin Baron Maydell who was said to have pro-Nazi sympathies. (De Mohrenschildt denied any Nazi sympathies of his own, claiming he helped raise money for the Polish resistance.) De Mohrenschildt made a documentary film about resistance fighters in Poland. However, when the United States entered World War II, his application to join the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was rejected. According to a memo by former CIA director Richard Helms, de Mohrenschildt "was alleged to be a Nazi espionage agent."
After the end of World War II, de Mohrenschildt moved to Venezuela where he worked for Pantepec Oil, a company owned by the family of William F. Buckley. He became a U.S. citizen in 1949. In 1950, he launched an oil investment firm with Edward Hooker with offices in New York City, Denver and Abilene. In 1952, de Mohrenschildt settled in Dallas, Texas and took a job with oilman Clint Murchison as a petroleum geologist.
Described as sophisticated and articulate, de Mohrenschildt became a respected member of the Russian émigré community in Dallas. He joined the Dallas Petroleum Club, was a member of the Dallas Council on World Affairs, and taught at a local college. One of de Mohrenschildt's longtime friends, offshore oil engineer George Kitchel, told the FBI that de Mohrenschildt counted among his good friends oil barons Clint Murchison, H.L. Hunt, John Mecom, and Sid Richardson. De Mohrenschildt also joined the right-wing Texas Crusade for Freedom whose members included Earle Cabell, Everette DeGolyer, Harold Byrd and Ted Dealey.
In 1957, de Mohrenschildt went to Yugoslavia to conduct a geological field survey for the U.S. State Department sponsored International Cooperation Administration. While in Yugoslavia, he was accused by the authorities there of making drawings of military fortifications. After returning to the United States, de Mohrenschildt was debriefed by the CIA, both in Washington and in Dallas.
De Mohrenschildt married his fourth wife, Jeanne, in 1959. From late 1960 and into 1961, he and his wife toured Central America and the Caribbean. He insisted that the trip was merely for pleasure. However, de Mohrenschildt submitted a written report of his trip to the U.S. State Department, and a photograph shows de Mohrenschildt meeting with the American ambassador to Costa Rica.
Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian-born wife Marina Oswald were introduced to de Mohrenschildt in the summer of 1962 in Fort Worth, Texas. De Mohrenschildt had heard of the Oswalds from one of the Russian-speaking group of émigrés in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. George and Jeanne befriended them, tried to help them as best they could, and introduced them to the Russian community in Dallas. In his Warren Commission testimony in 1964, de Mohrenschildt stated that he believed he had discussed Oswald with J. Walton Moore, whom de Mohrenschildt described as "a Government man — either FBI or Central Intelligence", and who had debriefed de Mohrenschildt several times following de Mohrenschildt's travels abroad, starting in 1957. (According to a CIA classified document, obtained by House Select Committee on Assassinations, J. Walton Moore was an agent of the CIA's Domestic Contacts Division in Dallas.) De Mohrenschildt asserted that shortly after meeting Oswald, he asked Moore and Fort Worth attorney Max E. Clark about Oswald to reassure himself that it was "safe" for the de Mohrenschildts to assist Oswald. De Mohrenschildt testified that one of the persons he talked to about Oswald told him that Oswald "seems to be OK," and that "he is a harmless lunatic." However, de Mohrenschildt was not exactly sure who it was who told him this. (When interviewed in 1978 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, J. Walton Moore denied that de Mohrenschildt had asked for his permission to contact Oswald.) (During this period, tens of thousands of American citizens were routinely debriefed by the CIA after traveling to countries such as Yugoslavia, as de Mohrenschildt was.)
In October 1962, de Mohrenschildt told Oswald that he would have a better chance of finding work in Dallas, after Oswald informed de Mohrenschildt that he had lost his job in nearby Fort Worth, Texas. Oswald was soon hired by the Dallas photographic firm of Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall. George de Mohrenschildt's wife and daughter would later say that it was George de Mohrenschildt who secured the job at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall for Oswald.
On April 14, 1963, George de Mohrenschildt and his wife, Jeanne, visited the Oswalds' apartment. As Oswald's wife, Marina was showing Jeanne around the apartment, they discovered Oswald's rifle leaning against the wall inside a closet. Jeanne told George that Oswald had a rifle, and George joked to Oswald, "Were you the one who took a pot-shot at General Walker?" (General Edwin Walker was a conservative activist who George de Mohrenschildt said he "knew that Oswald disliked.") When later asked by the Warren Commission about Oswald's reaction to his question, George de Mohrenschildt said that Oswald "smiled at that." The Warren Commission concluded that on April 10, 1963, Oswald had attempted to kill General Walker.
In March 1963, de Mohrenschildt received a Haitian government contract for $285,000 to set up an industrial enterprise with other investors, which included surveying oil and geological resources on the island. In May, he met in Washington, D.C. with CIA and Army intelligence contacts to further his Haitian connections. De Mohrenschildt moved to Haiti in June. He never saw Oswald again. After Kennedy was assassinated, de Mohrenschildt testified before the Warren Commission in April 1964. (For this testimony in the hearing record, see Testimony of George S. de Mohrenschildt.) In 1967, de Mohrenschildt left Haiti and returned to Dallas. Also in 1967, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison interviewed George and Jeanne de Mohrenschildt as part of Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw.
For reasons unknown, George and Jeanne de Mohrenschildt obtained a divorce in Dallas, Texas on April 3, 1973, after nearly fourteen years of marriage. It was not reported in the local newspapers, and the couple continued to present themselves as husband and wife.
On September 17, 1976, the CIA requested that the FBI locate de Mohrenschildt, because he had "attempted to get in touch with the CIA Director." On September 5, 1976, De Mohrenschildt had written a letter to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George H. W. Bush asking for his assistance. He was acquainted with the Bush family; George H. W. Bush had roomed with de Mohrenschildt's nephew, Edward G. Hooker, at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The letter said:
You will excuse this hand-written letter. Maybe you will be able to bring a solution to the hopeless situation I find myself in. My wife and I find ourselves surrounded by some vigilantes; our phone bugged; and we are being followed everywhere. Either FBI is involved in this or they do not want to accept my complaints. We are driven to insanity by the situation. I have been behaving like a damn fool ever since my daughter Nadya died from [cystic fibrosis] over three years ago. I tried to write, stupidly and unsuccessfully, about Lee H Oswald and must have angered a lot of people — I do not know. But to punish an elderly man like myself and my highly nervous and sick wife is really too much. Could you do something to remove the net around us? This will be my last request for help and I will not annoy you any more. Good luck in your important job. Thank you so much.
George Bush wrote back:
Let me say first that I know it must have been difficult for you to seek my help in the situation outlined in your letter. I believe I can appreciate your state of mind in view of your daughter's tragic death a few years ago, and the current poor state of your wife's health. I was extremely sorry to hear of these circumstances. In your situation I can well imagine how the attentions you described in your letter affect both you and your wife. However, my staff has been unable to find any indication of interest in your activities on the part of Federal authorities in recent years. The flurry of interest that attended your testimony before the Warren Commission has long subsided. I can only speculate that you may have become "newsworthy" again in view of the renewed interest in the Kennedy assassination, and thus may be attracting the attention of people in the media. I hope this letter had been of some comfort to you, George, although I realize I am unable to answer your question completely. George Bush, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. [CIA Exec Reg. # 76,51571 9.28.76]
On November 9, 1976, Jeanne had him committed to a mental institution in Texas for three months, and listed in a notarized affidavit four previous suicide attempts while he was in the Dallas area. In the affidavit she stated that George suffered from depression, heard voices, saw visions, and believed that the CIA and the Jewish Mafia were persecuting him.
According to Dutch journalist Willem Oltmans, a "serious and famous Dutch clairvoyant," named Gerard Croiset, had a vision in 1967 of a conspirator who had manipulated Oswald; his description led Oltmans to de Mohrenschildt, and the two stayed in touch. In 1977, Oltmans went to Texas and brought de Mohrenschildt to the Netherlands. What happened next is disputed. Michael Eddowes says Oltmans plied de Mohrenschildt with pharmaceutical drugs, which Oltmans denies, saying instead that he rescued de Mohrenschildt from a mental institution to bring him to the "famous" clairvoyant, Croiset. According to Oltmans, Croiset agreed that de Mohrenschildt was the man he saw in his vision.
Oltmans says that after de Mohrenschildt arrived in the Netherlands, he invited him out with some Russian friends. They went to Brussels and had plans to go to Liège, a city in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Oltmans owned a house not far from Liège in the countryside. Upon returning to Brussels, de Mohrenschildt went for a short walk from which he failed to return. He had earlier agreed to meet Oltmans and his friends for lunch. Oltmans waited for him but he did not come back.
On March 16, 1977, de Mohrenschildt returned to the United States from his trip. His daughter talked with him at length and found him to be deeply disturbed about certain matters and had expressed a desire to commit suicide. On March 29, De Mohrenschildt gave an interview to author Edward Jay Epstein, during which he claimed that in 1962, Dallas CIA operative J. Walton Moore had given him the go-ahead to meet Oswald. "I would never have contacted Oswald in a million years if Moore had not sanctioned it," de Mohrenschildt said. "Too much was at stake." On the same day as the Epstein interview, de Mohrenschildt received a business card from Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, telling him that he would like to see him. The HSCA considered him a "crucial witness". That afternoon, de Mohrenschildt was found dead from a shotgun blast to the head in a house where he was staying in Manalapan, Florida. The coroner's verdict was suicide.
On April 1, 1977, Jeanne de Mohrenschildt gave the House Select Committee on Assassinations a print of a photograph showing Lee Harvey Oswald standing in his Dallas backyard holding two newspapers and a rifle, and with a pistol on his hip – a photograph taken by Oswald's wife Marina. While similar to other prints which had been found among Oswald's effects on November 23, 1963, the existence of this particular print was previously unknown. On the back of that print was written To my friend George from Lee Oswald, and the date “5/IV/63” (5 April 1963). along with the words “Copyright Geo de M”' and a Russian phrase translated as “'Hunter of fascists, ha-ha-ha!” Handwriting specialists later concluded that the words “To my friend George…” and Oswald's signature were written by Lee Harvey Oswald, but could not determine whether the rest was the writing of Lee Oswald, George de Mohrenschildt or Marina Oswald. Some historians have speculated the Russian line was written by Marina, in sarcasm. (George de Mohrenschildt in his memoir translated it as "This is the hunter of fascists, ha, ha, ha!" and also assumed that Marina had written it sarcastically.)
George de Mohrenschildt wrote in his manuscript (reference and pages cited above) that he had missed Oswald's photograph in packing for the move to Haiti in May, 1963, and this was why he had not mentioned it to the Warren Commission (though he had noted in his manuscript that Oswald had a rifle in April, 1963, and scoffed to Lee that he had missed General Walker, remembering that Lee had blanched at the joke). According to de Mohrenschildt, the photo was not found among his stored papers until his wife found it in 1967. When analyzed by the HSCA in 1977, this photo turned out to be a first generation print of the backyard photo already known to the Warren Commission as CE-133A, and which had probably been taken on March 31, 1963.
Jeanne de Mohrenschildt also gave the HSCA committee a copy of a draft manuscript called I Am a Patsy! I Am a Patsy! which George de Mohrenschildt had completed in the summer of 1976 about his relationship with his "dear, dead friend" Oswald, wherein he said that the Oswald he knew was rarely ever violent and would not have been the sort of person to have killed John F. Kennedy. In part this judgment was based on de Mohrenschildt's estimation of Oswald's political views and Kennedy's liberal ideas. Until 2013 the memoir had never been published as a trade book but the entire typescript was published as an appendix in the HSCA report. In November of 2013 a professionally edited and annotated version of the manuscript became available under the title Lee Harvey Oswald as I Knew Him. The primary focus of de Mohrenschildt’s text is a series of recollections about the brief time period between September 1962 and April 1963 that he and Jeanne were acquainted with the Oswalds. A secondary focus consists of a number of meditations on the corrosive effects knowing the Oswalds had on the professional and personal lives of the de Mohrenschildts. "It must be acknowledged that our brief friendship with the Oswalds had strange and adverse effects on our lives." Only in a tertiary sense is the manuscript concerned with Oswald’s guilt or innocence and who the “real criminals” might be. Readers are challenged to make up their own minds. The memoirs of de Mohrenschildt were edited and annotated as Lee Harvey Oswald as I Knew Him, edited by Michael A. Rinella (forthcoming 2014, University Press of Kansas).
De Mohrenschildt was played by Willem Oltmans in the 1991 film, JFK and by Bill Bolender in the 1993 TV movie, Fatal Deception: Mrs. Lee Harvey Oswald. He is also mentioned at length in the Stephen King novel, 11/22/63, a time travel novel about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and his Haitian experience in Hans Christoph Buch's novel Haïti Chérie (Suhrkamp, 1990). More recently, de Mohrenschildt was discussed at length in the Tru TV series, Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. The episode states that George de Mohrenschildt was in fact a CIA handler for Lee Harvey Oswald.
|This article uses bare URLs for citations, which may be threatened by link rot. (May 2014)|
At 2315 hours, on 29 March 1977, this writer made contact with the victim's wife, MRS. JEANNE deMOHRENSCHILDT, in California … and advised her of her husband's demise; a fact which she had already been made aware of by several newsmen who had telephoned her seeking a story. She stated that she has been married to the victim for the past twenty-one years and noted that over the past several years he has been acting in an "insane manner".