Lee Harvey Oswald in Berlin

Lee Harvey Oswald in Berlin

The most remarkable note in Oswald’s address book, in my opinion, is the above on. Yes: this book, found among Oswald’s belongings after the assassination of JFK, was much more than just a list of names and addresses. What do we see here? Lee Harvey Oswald wrote down ‘West Berlin – F.R.G. Tempelhofer Damm. Lee H.’ He made a little doodle too, an innocent scribble, at first sight. F.R.G. means Federal Republic of Germany: the official name of West Germany. The Tempelhofer Damm is an important throroughfare in former West Berlin, close to the Tempelhof Airport.

Why the note?
Lee Harvey Oswald has never been in Berlin, except for one brief moment on the evening of June 2, 1962. His family travelled from Moscow to the United States and the train to Holland went through this city (route through Europe). Why did Oswald write down this information? Why is the Tempelhofer Damm important to him? Is it possible that, like some think, Oswald’s interest had something to do with the many CIA-agents that were in Berlin at the height of the Cold War? Was this the reason Oswald wrote ‘Lee H.’? (There are investigators who speculate Oswald was ordered to use that name in Berlin. Oswald used different variations of his name when he deemed it necessary: in Dallas some people knew him as O.H. Lee, in Mexico he used Harvey Lee.)

The train through Berlin
In 2006-2007 I did some investigation on this episode in the life of Oswald. I wanted to test and exclude theories. First: what happened or could have happened on that evening in 1962? I corresponded with the railway operator and they sent me the time table (see photo) of Oswald’s journey. Let’s have a look. The train with the Oswalds arrived at Ostbahnhof at 10:04 pm. Time for some fresh air: the train would wait until 10:53 pm before continuing with the trip. That means Oswald could walk around in East Berlin for 49 minutes. According to the schedule, at 11:12 pm the train arrived at Zoologischer Garten, the station near the Berlin Zoo. That means the Oswalds passed the borders between East and West Berlin between 10:53 and 11:12 pm, through trainstation Friedrich Straße, near famous Checkpoint Charlie.  The station also was a major border crossing for public transport.

Just an meaningless doodle?
So Oswald had some time for an encounter or something like that. Let’s now take a look at the doodle. I compared it to the map of Berlin. Is it just wishful thinking or are there really similarities? The curly line could be the river Spree, other lines are drawn in the same way as the location of some important streets, leading to… Yes, Tempelhofer Damm. I was not the first one looking at the doodle this way. From investigator/author Anthony Summers I received a lot of files on Berlin, back in 2007. One of the things I found in the folder is a sketch made by investigator Sidney A. Martin II, drawn in 1980. He did the same thing I did: compare Berlin with the doodle Oswald made. Click here to see his sketch, next to Oswald’s doodle. Readers: what do you think? Just an innocent doodle?!

While entering the West through Helmstedt through Helmstedt, one of the most strictly monitored checkpoints on the East German border, Marina’s passport got stamped. Her husband never received that stamp – why not? Some researchers believe the clue lies in the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t with Marina at that moment. Did he stop over in West Berlin and continue his journey west by other means? It’s a question that also kept author Anthony Summers awake. In Conspiracy: “Oswald had no known reason for the diversion. West Berlin, however, long served as an intelligence crossroads, and as a haven for operatives coming in from the cold.” Whatever he did, the family Oswald was certainly reunited when entering Holland. Both received the stamp (see photo) at the border near the city Oldenzaal.

Troublesome and inexplicable, where words used by the Warren Commission, during hearings on the trip back to the US. The course of events must have been remarkable to the HSCA too: they asked Marina explicit about it in 1978:

Mr. DODD – When you left Russia, you went, you exited through Brest, I believe.
Mrs. PORTER – Brest, yes.
Mr. DODD – And then you went to Rotterdam.
Mrs. PORTER – Yes.
Mr. DODD – Was Lee Oswald with you the entire time, from the time you left the Soviet Union until the time you arrived in the United States?
Mrs. PORTER – Yes.
Mr. DODD – Was there any significant period of time when he was out of the area, when he was absent?
Mrs. PORTER – Well, we traveled by train to Rotterdam, and he didn’t leave, I mean there is no way you can leave anyway on the train. He was present all the time.
Mr. DODD – All the time.
Mrs. PORTER – Yes.
Mr. DODD – Until you got to Rotterdam.
Mrs. PORTER – Except maybe when he went, you know, for the bathroom and things like that.

A plane will take me home
There is a last option, an explanation for the map of Berlin in Oswald’s book. In august 1961, he was planning his trip to the US, nine months before the actual departure. Oswald wanted to travel to Berlin and take a military plane to America. The American embassy in Moscow refused his expensive idea:  the only option given by them was travelling by train. Did Oswald draw the map of Berlin in an optimistic mood, in the fall of 1961? Did he think a flight from Tempelhof Airport would take him to Texas? That airport is on the street Tempelhofer Damm…

What do you think? Just a doodle? And if not: what was the reason of the existence in Oswald’s address book?

Perry Vermeulen

Author of two books related to the assassination of JFK, published in The Netherlands in 2008 and 2012. Wrote a lot about this subject; built this website in 2023 to accommodate all those different stories. I will continue to produce new articles on the case.

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