Ella German (Belarusian: Эла Герман; born 1937) is a Belarusian woman known for having a brief relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald after his defection to the Soviet Union in 1959. She has lived most of her life in Minsk, the capital of Belarus (until 1992 part of the Soviet Union); in 2013 she was living in the Israeli town of Acre.
German was born to a Jewish family in Minsk, then part of the Soviet Union, in 1937. Her mother, reported to be a very good singer but unable to make a career of it, worked in a chorus to earn money. As German's father died when she was young, her grandmother took care of her. In June 1941, she was with her grandparents in Mogilev, southeast of Minsk, for the summer when German military forces invaded. Fleeing the occupation, German and her grandparents made their way to Tambov, then farther east to Saratov on the Volga River, where they were able to locate her mother and her baby brother, Vladimir. The family found space on a train carrying horses and cattle, and eventually ended up in Mordovia, southeast of Moscow. After Minsk was liberated in 1944, the family returned.
German described her childhood in hindsight as a miserable life, but stated that she never felt unhappy. She said that as a young woman she was more interested in boys than in politics or technology, although she was nineteen before she first dated. German reported that theater was important to her family and that she enjoyed dancing the waltz and foxtrot as she got older. She frequently performed in public theater and thought she might become an actress. She eventually decided that she wanted to attend university, but failed her entrance examination due to low marks in the Belarusian language. She tried for two more years to gain admission to Minsk University but continued to receive very low marks for the language criterion despite what she believed was a good knowledge of Belarusian. Another account states that she was eventually admitted to the university, but lost her scholarship after receiving a low grade on an important examination.
Lee Harvey Oswald
During the mid-1950s, shortly after she failed her first entrance examination to Minsk University, German was hired as a fitter in the Gorizont (Horizon) radio and television factory located in Minsk. Sometime between April and June 1960[nb 1], she was working in the Experimental Department on the first floor of the factory when she met Oswald, a co-worker in the factory. At one point, German asked for his help translating some documents written in English. According to Oswald's diary: "I noticed her, and perhaps fell in love with her, the first minute I saw her". German would later describe him as "a pleasant-looking guy with a good sense of humor. He was not as rough and rude as the men here were back then". She said, "We went to the movies, the theater, symphonies. He was easy to be with. He didn't demand anything of me". The couple ate in the cafeteria together every day and dated about twice each week. German said that similar to relationships she had had with other men, she was content to be alone with Oswald and without the company of others. She said that it was difficult to trust him completely as he seemed to compartmentalize the relationships in his life.[nb 2]
The relationship became more serious to Oswald during the summer and fall of 1960. German stated that he may have been aware from their very first meeting that she was Jewish, but that he mentioned the issue of it to her only once, when he broached the subject of marriage by stating that it did not matter to him that she was Jewish. On the subject of marriage, German reported that she had rejected at least two marriage proposals prior to her relationship with Oswald, and that he was someone she did not love or like enough to marry. German said that she perceived Oswald as a lonely person and continued to date him out of pity, concerned that rejecting him would make him lonelier.
After knowing him for nearly six months, German was invited to Oswald's apartment for the first time on October 18, 1960, his twenty-first birthday. According to German, a quarrel ensued when a friend of Oswald brought another woman to the gathering, making it apparent to her that he had been intimate with other women. Oswald's writings indicate that he had four to five sexual encounters with the woman over the following two weeks. German said she began to stop trusting Oswald as much after she learned in October 1960 that he had been seeing other women.
According to German, Oswald showed up with a gift of chocolates at her family's house on the evening of December 31, 1960, and spent New Year's Eve with them. [nb 3] She stated that they had earlier quarreled about New Year's Eve plans. Oswald's diary entry for January 1, 1961 indicated that he had an enjoyable time at the gathering and decided on the way home that he would propose to German. On January 2, Oswald wrote that he had proposed to her and had been refused because she did not love him and because he was an American. He concluded that German was more interested in arousing the envy of other women by having an American escort. She has stated that she did not understand why Oswald cared so deeply for her and that she was surprised by the proposal. Describing the level of intimacy in their relationship, German said, "We kissed, but we did not sleep together. We never became lovers because, in the end, I decided I did not love him". She has been reported as stating that she might have married Oswald a year later when her desire for company and a family was much more urgent. Some authors, including Peter Savodnik and Priscilla Johnson McMillan, believe German's rejection of Oswald's marriage proposal had much to do with his disillusionment with life in the Soviet Union and his decision to return to the United States.[nb 4] Oswald dated German formally for the last time in January or February 1960. According to German, he ignored her at their workplace.
In April, Oswald married Marina Prusakova; in his diary he wrote that he married Marina to "hurt" German. The two did not speak for nearly a year.[nb 5] On May 4, 1962, German married Max Prokhorchik, a worker at Horizon who had had an argument with Oswald two years earlier. One week before departing for the United States with Marina in May 1962, Oswald approached German at the factory, stating that he wanted to speak to her in private. According to German, Oswald abruptly turned and walked away after learning that she had married someone that he knew. She was reported to have been surprised that he returned to the United States.
Following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, German was worried that the KGB would come for her, but has stated that they never did. According to novelist Norman Mailer, she said that Oswald was "so gentle" and that she could not believe he was Kennedy's assassin.
German was still a resident of Minsk, Belarus, in 1993. She was interviewed by Mailer for his 1995 biography, Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery. Mailer reported that German was a teacher at that time, living with and caring for her daughter and granddaughter. Savodnik also interviewed her for his 2013 book, The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union. As of 2013, German lived in Acre, Israel.
- The Warren Commission refers to Oswald's entry about German dated June 1960 in Commission Exhibit 2759, a handwritten account of Oswald's "amorous affairs" in the USSR that was found among his personal effects. Norman Mailer's account has German referring to this diary entry stating that she could not believe how distorted Oswald's sense of time was since they met prior to the 1960 U-2 incident. Similarly, Peter Savodnik, who interviewed German, also notes the time period of April or May.
- German reported to Mailer that she was surprised to discover years later that Oswald's mother was still living when Oswald told her she was not.
- Citing the January 1, 1960 entry in Oswald's diary, the Warren Commission stated that Oswald spent New Year's Day with German and her family.
- The Warren Commission reported that the "first signs of disillusionment with his Russian life appeared" around the time he met German.
- Mailer's account states that Oswald pretended not to know German and did not speak with her in the fifteen months since their relationship had ended.
- "Appendix 13: Biography of Lee Harvey Oswald". Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. pp. 697, 699.
- Savodnik, Peter (October 11, 2013). "Could a Jewish Beauty Have Saved Kennedy by Marrying Lee Harvey Oswald in Minsk?". Tablet. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
- Mailer 2007, p. 103.
- Mailer 2007, p. 104.
- Mailer 2007, p. 105.
- Bugliosi 2007, p. 601.
- Mailer 2007, p. 110.
- Gallagher, James P. (January 27, 1993). "Literati Probing Oswald's Days In Minsk". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
- Mailer 2007, p. 108.
- Mailer 2007, pp. 108-109.
- Mailer 2007, p. 109.
- Mailer 2007, p. 117.
- Mailer 2007, p. 119.
- Mailer 2007, p. 129.
- Mailer 2007, p. 130.
- Johnson McMillan, Priscilla (October 10, 2013). "The Assassin as Political Pilgrim". Washington Decoded. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
- Mailer 2007, p. 132.
- Mailer 2007, p. 131.
- Loftus, Joseph A. (September 28, 1964). "Oswald's Act Held Consistent With Personality". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
- Mailer 2007, p. 284.
- Mailer 2007, pp. 283-284.
- Bugliosi 2007, p. 630.
- Mailer 2007, p. 327.
- Mailer 2007, p. 102.
- Smith, Sonia (October 24, 2013). "Wandering Oswald: An interview with Peter Savodnik, author of "The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union."". Texas Monthly. Retrieved May 29, 2015.