18: The Warren Commission
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
As the atmosphere of Port–au–Prince became oppressive for us and my work was suffering from it, we were considering abandoning my survey, disbanding my small personnel and return to the States. But President Duvalier found himself a solution to this situation. He asked Dr. Hervé Boyer, Minister of Finance — Secretary of Treasury — and a good friend of mine who had helped me to get the Survey contract, to invite me to his office and to have a chat with me. This was a friendly office which I visited often when some problems had to be solved, and the secretary who was also Boyer’s mistress, a gorgeous Mulatto girl, was no less amicable to me as usual.
But not so Dr. Boyer. He said decisively: “you are in the hot water. Everyone is talking about you and your wife. Do no abandon your survey but go back to the States and clear your name somehow. If you cannot, come back, wind up your work and leave the country.”
J. Lee Rankin and the Warren Commission
I so happened that on the same day our Embassy received a letter, addressed to me and my wife, from Mr. J. Lee Rankin, General Counsel of the Warren Commission. Mr. Rankin invited us to come to Washington D.C., if we wished, and to testify. This letter also stated that if we accepted to testify, the Warren Commission would pay all our expenses to Washington and back to Haiti. Of course we were most anxious to cooperate as much as we could to solve this crime. But Jeanne refused to travel without our two dogs — Manchester terriers – and, after the exchange of wires, Mr. Rankin accepted the additional “dog expense”.
I was unfortunate that Nero and Poppaea, our terriers, were blissfully unaware that this trip was caused by Lee Harvey Oswald whom they liked so much. For them this expedition was a ball.
We stayed at the old Willard Hotel, not far from the Veterans’ Administration Building, where the Commission was located.
George de Mohrenschildt and Albert Jenner
I was the first to testify. The man who took my deposition was Albert Jenner, a lawyer from Chicago, who much later became well known in connection with the Watergate case. Jenner was a well–known trial lawyer and I have to admit that either he was much cleverer than I or that I was impressed by the whole setting and the situation as it unfolded in Washington at the time. Anyway Jenner played with me as if I were a baby.
Also people I met there were rather impressive. Allen Dulles, head of CIA at the time, who did not interfere in the proceedings but was there as a distant threat. Judge Warren himself, a rather sympathetic, paternal figure who had a weakness for Marina, we found later. Representative General Ford, friendly and youthful–looking. The last ten years changed him considerably. And then innumerable, hustling lawyers, all of them trying to figure out how a single man, Lee Harvey Oswald, could have done so much damage with his old, primitive, Italian army rifle. Having around such a galaxy of legal and political talent, you don’t have to be tortured, you would impressed and intimidated to say almost anything about an insignificant, dead ex–Marine.
And during my lengthy deposition, I said some unkind things about Lee which I now regret. The reader must imagine my situation, sitting there and answering an endless flow of well–prepared and insidious questions for more than two days …. Was this an intimidation?
“We know more about your life than you yourself, so answer all my questions truthful and sincerely,” Jenner began.
I should have said, “if you know everything why bring us all the way from Haiti?” But I did not and began to talk. And my answers were very nicely edited in the subsequent Report. “Say the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” he intoned.
Jenner was a good actor, very cold and aloof at first, he switched to flattery and smiles when he felt that I was getting tensed up and antagonistic. “How cosmopolitan you are! How many important people you know! Yes, you are great!” said Jenner ingratiatingly. And probably this flattery worked well on me, proving to me that Albert Jenner was such a good friend of mine. So I answered all the questions to the best of my ability, with utter sincerity, without even asking to have my lawyer present and he, the sneaky bastard, did not say a word that the whole testimony would be printed and distributed all over the world. And so my private life was shamelessly violated. During this time Jeanne and the dogs were languishing in the old Willard Hotel.
At the end of this long testimony Jenner seemed convinced that I was not involved in any way in this “already solved” assassination. He began showering compliments on me and I felt like a star of a pornographic movie. Before leaving, I told Jenner of the harm this affair was causing me, mainly of the attitude of the American Ambassador, of the reflexion on my work in Haiti. He inserted therefore some nice statements, putting me above all suspicion. Big deal! The harm was already done. And how could I have been suspected of anything, being so far away from Dallas, unless President Duvalier and I used voodoo practices and inserted needles or shot at a doll resembling President Kennedy. Since everything was known, Jenner concluded my useless testimony with the following words: “you did all right. Keep up the life you have been leading. You helped a poor family.” And he added as an aside, “remember, sometimes it is dangerous to be too generous with your time and help.”
Jeanne de Mohrenschildt and the Warren Commission
Then followed one and a half days of testimony for my wife and our Manchesters. They were not “material witnesses” but Jeanne refused categorically to leave them in the hotel. If our dogs could have talked, their testimonies would have been more valuable than ours.
As Jeanne and I discussed our experiences as witnesses, many details came to our minds. For instance: “Lee Harvey Oswald must have asked you a question about your political philosophy. What did you say?” asked Jenner slyly.
“Live and let live,” I answered simply. Jenner made some comments on that but generally seemed satisfied.
I said to Jeanne later: “It was an unpleasant experience, but in Russia we would have been sent to Siberia for life.” She agreed.
Jeann’s opinion regarding our experiences were somewhat different from mine. I was anxious to clear up my name and return to Haiti. “I considered it a favor of mine to come and help the Commission,” she had said. “I was completely relaxed. The counsel was pleasant and reserved. However, instead of asking pertinent questions, for instance ‘when did you meet the Oswalds?’ and ‘how many times you talked to him and Marina and about what?’ Instead they asked me: ‘where were you born? Who were your parents?’ I never suspected that my personal life would be broadcast, although I had nothing to be ashamed of. Still it’s my property, my life, the whole report was a washup, a coverup.”
Later we shall say whom the Warren Commission tried to cover up, maybe unconsciously.
“I can never forgive the cheek of asking me how many children I had,” continued recollecting my fiery wife, “how many jobs I changed, and why, whom I had worked for, how many times I went to Europe on buying trips, how much I earned. I had expected to speak only of Lee and Marina. So I have a grudge and if I could, I would try to make them pay for the harm and insult they done to me. Where is the privacy we are supposed to have here?” said Jeanne bitterly.
“And so I spoke of my wonderful parents, of my life in China, my arrival in USA. Poverty, hard work, success finally. But I hoped that this would be a country free of prejudice, of racial discrimination. Financial opportunities in USA were not the prime reasons for my coming here. My faith, or lack of faith, all was polluted by this porno–exhibitionist questioning. Finally we began discussing Lee in a desultory manner,” concluded Jeanne.
Naturally our testimonies regarding Lee and Marina coincided. We said the same things in our own ways and we never even bothered to read our own testimonies. Obviously everything we said coincided perfectly. When you said truth, you don’t have to remember it, so we did not discuss further details.
“Finally,” remembered Jeanne, “they made me identify the gun. Nero, the Manchester was there, he sniffed at the gun, he could have made a better identification than I. For me the gun seemed familiar, but whether it was the same we saw in the closet, I couldn’t say. I seemed to have a telescopic sight. So I told Jenner — ‘ask Marina, she could identify the gun!’”
The Warren Commissioners’ Minds Were Made Up
We both felt that the minds of the members of the Warren Commission were already made up, they were obsessed with the idea that Lee was the sole assassin. The idea of Cuban refugees with mortal grudge against Kennedy did not interest them. We both were investigated the same way. Any time we said anything favorable to Lee, they passed it up. And Jenner jesuitically kept asking questions which were incriminating to Lee.
An amusing detail of Jeanne’s interrogation: Jenner shied away from Nero — and Jeanne promised that he would not bite, that he never bit Lee who was a good human being — to which Nero would be willing to swear.
We discussed also what we had heard from the Commission members — most other witnesses were nervous and contradicted themselves, probably intimidated by the awesomeness of the proceedings and the fact that many were not even naturalized citizens. And so some good people spoke very unkindly and untruthfully of Lee just because they were frightened and they wanted to please the Commission. They really should be forgiven.
All the favorable facts we mentioned about Lee were subsequently misinterpreted in the printed edition of the report or not mentioned in it at all.
Both of us furthermore felt that Jenner was displeased whenever he heard some favorable facts about Lee.
Then we asked ourselves: why did Warren Commission spent all the money bringing us back and forth, keeping us in an expensive hotel, doing all that hellishly expensive investigation around the world about us, even carrying our mutts to Washington and back to Haiti? Why such a waste of the taxpayers’ money if they did not want to hear the truth?
We discovered that we both told Jenner independently: “why don’t you send good detectives to New Orleans and to Mexico, find who were Lee’s contacts at that time and what he was up to at the time of the tragedy.” It seems that a Senate Commission is going to do just that now, in the summer of 1976.
We wondered why the Commission paid so much attention to the testimonies of people who had known Lee and Marina in Dallas, long before the assassination, or others who had known him long before that? And the answer was — just to fill up the pages and tranquillize American populace.
Jeanne disputed with Mrs. Hugh Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy’s mother in the evening when we finished our deposition. Jeanne asked her: “why don’t you, the relatives of our beloved President, you who so wealthy, why don’t you conduct a real investigation as to who was the rat who killed him?”
“But the rat was your friend Lee Harvey Oswald,” was the cold answer.
Thus the mind of not only the members of the Commission but of President’s family were all made up.
Jenner kept asking me constantly — “why did Oswald like you and didn’t like anybody else?” As if there was some homosexual link between us …
“I don’t have the slightest idea, maybe because I liked him.”
“Maybe he liked you because you were a strong person?” Jenner asked again intimating that maybe I was a “wolf” or a devil influencing him to do evil. “Maybe he identified you as an internationalist?” Intimating again some dark connections I might have.
“Maybe,” I answered. “I am no admirer of any particular flag.”
“You and your wife were the only ones who remained his friends?” continued Jenner his line of inquiry.
Their question was asked of both of us. And we answered both in about the same terms: “to us they were warm, open, young people, responsive to our hospitality.”
George de Mohrenschildt and Mrs. Auchincloss
Albert Jenner then brought to my attention part of a letter I wrote to Mrs. Auchincloss from Haiti. He used this as my admission of Lee’s guilt, and I had explained already under what circumstances this letter was written. “Since we lived in Dallas we had the misfortune to have met Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife Marina. I do hope that Marina and her children (now she has two by Lee) will not suffer too badly through life and that the stigma of the assassination will not affect her and the innocent children.”
This was my foolish letter and my speculation, not Jeanne’s.
And again, after the impact of this letter read to me, Jenner very cleverly bamboozled me into a possible motive of Lee’s guilt. “The only reason for Lee’s criminal act,” I continued, “would be that he might have been jealous of a young, rich, attractive president who had a beautiful wife and was a world figure. Lee was just the opposite; his wife was bitchy and he was a failure.”
Now, away from the pressure of the Commission, I consider this statement of mine most unfair. It would not have made him a here to have shot a liberal and beloved president, especially beloved by the minorities, and Marina was not such a bitch, while Jacqueline was not so beautiful. Especially she was not beautiful inside when she married that gangster of international shipping, Aristotle Onassis.
If you read the Warren Report, there is another leading question by Jenner: “as a humanitarian person you cannot imagine anyone murdering another person?” A childish, naive question, of course.
“I cannot imagine doing it myself,” I answered equally stupidly, but at least I did not express opinion about Lee’s guilt.
Lee, an ex–Marine, trained for organized murder, was capable of killing but for a very strong ideological motive or in self–defence.
But a few more words about my letter to Mrs. Auchincloss, Mrs. Kennedy’s mother. The copies of these letters were given Warren Commission by Allen Dulles, her close friend, as well as the copies of her letters to me. On January 29, 1964 she wrote to me: “it seems extraordinary that you knew Lee Harvey Oswald and Jacqueline as a child. It certainly is a strange world. And I hope, like you do, that Lee Harvey Oswald’s innocent children will not suffer.”
Very tired by our testimonies, we were invited after our ordeal to the luxurious house of Jacqueline Kennedy’s mother and her step–father, Mr. High Auchincloss. This luxurious home was located in Georgetown and Auchincloss’ money originated of some association of Hugh’s family with John D. Rockefeller, Sr. of the oil fame. We spoke about another coincidence on our lives. I flew one day from Dallas to Washington and Mrs. Hugh Auchincloss happened to be on the same plane. She was fling from some health–farm in Phoenix, Arizona, where rich women stay on a diet, exercise and put themselves in an acceptable shape again. This was the year of presidential election and Mrs. Auchincloss, a staunch Republican, was for Nixon and was sure that her son–in–law, JFK, did not have the slightest chance to win the elections.
I, on the other side, was sure that Kennedy would win the elections and was going to vote Democratic for the first time.
I told her that the mood of the country was for her charming son–in–law, and she answered that I did not understand American politics …
Eventually, we had to talk sadly about the assassination. Allan Dulles was there also and he asked me a few astute questions about Lee. One of them was, I remember, did Lee have a reason of hating President Kennedy? However, when I answered that he was rather an admirer of the dead President, everyone took my answer with a grain of salt. Again the overwhelming opinion was that Lee was the sole assassin.
I was still thinking of poor Lee, comparing his life with the life of these multi–millionaires, I tried to reason — to no avail. It seemed to me that I was facing a conspiracy, a conspiracy of stubbornness and silence. Finally both Jeanne and Janet (Mrs. Auchincloss) got very emotional, embraced each other and cried together, one over the loss of her son–in–law, another over the loss of a great president she admired so much.
The Kennedy Family and the Assassination
“Janet,” I said before leaving, “you were Jack Kennedy’s mother–in–law, and I am a complete stranger. I would spend my own money and lots of my time to find out who were the real assassins or the conspirators. Don’t you want any further investigation? You have infinite resources.”
“Jack is dead and nothing will bring him back,” replied she decisively.
“Since he was a very beloved president, I wouldn’t let a stone unturned to make sure that the assassin is found and punished,” implored Jeanne. “We both have grave doubts in Lee’s guilt.”
Later we discussed for a long time why a woman so close to President Kennedy, nor Robert Kennedy and the rest of [the] Kennedy family, as we discovered later, would be so adamant on this subject. A later chapter, dealing with Willem Oltmans’s strange adventure, will raise further grave doubts in readers’ minds. Would it be possible, as much as it sounds like a sacrilege, that Lee was a “convenient” assassin to all the relatives and friends of the late President Kennedy? Convenient not in any derogatory sense but just because was a PATSY, a patsy not involved in any revenge arising out of JFK’s biggest and costliest mistake — the Bay of Pigs.
Isn’t better to think, maybe subconsciously, that the assassin was a crazy, semi–literate, ex–Marine, screwed–up, Marxist lunatic, with an undesirable discharge and a poverty–stricken childhood, unsuccessful in his pursuits both in USSR and in USA — and with a record of marriage verging on disastrous. It’s better to hold to this belief for them and for the rest of the country rather than to find out that the assassination was a devilishly clever act of revenge caused by the Bay of Pigs disaster.…
This would explain Lee’s desperate scream: “I am a patsy!” But we were still in the Auchincloss’ luxurious mansion, about ready to leave. “Incidentally,” said Mrs. Auchincloss coldly, “my daughter Jacqueline never wants to see you again because you were close to her husband’s assassin.”
“It’s her privilege,” I answered.
Hugh, who was a very silent man, asked me suddenly: “and how Marina is fixed financially?”
“I do not know, I just read that she received quite a lot of money from the charitable American people — maybe eighty thousand dollars.”
“That won’t last her long,” he said thoughtfully and, almost without transition, pointed out to an extraordinary chess set: “this is early Persian, valued at sixty thousand dollars.”
We said goodbyes amicably to the Auchinclosses and drove off back to our hotel. “That son–of–the–gun Hugh has an income running into millions,” I told Jeanne thoughtfully.
“Such figures are beyond my comprehension,” she said sadly.