Lee Harvey Oswald and the Jews

Soviet Colleagues and Girlfriend Influenced Assassin of JFK

End of the Line: In Moscow in 1960, three years before he would assassinate JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald tried to kill himself, after which the KGB sent him to Minsk.
Getty Images
End of the Line: In Moscow in 1960, three years before he would assassinate JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald tried to kill himself, after which the KGB sent him to Minsk.

By Peter Savodnik

Published October 10, 2013, issue of October 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Oswald met other Jews at the factory, including Sasha Rubinchik, an engineer and one of his Russian tutors; Leonid Botvinik, a metal-lathe operator, and Maxim Prokhorchik, also a metal lathe operator, who later married German.

Many of the people Oswald worked with at the Experimental Department of the Minsk Radio Factory were partly Jewish. There were two reasons for this: elements of the huge, prewar Jewish community that had not been eradicated by the Germans, and anti-Semitism in Moscow, which fueled official fears of too many Jews working on important things related to the defense of the country (like rockets and radar systems) and channeled them into more bourgeois capacities, such as designing television sets. The Jews, like the Americans, had been consigned to a factory that made things the Politburo did not care that much about.

In his diary, Oswald, who had met few Jews in the United States, signaled that he was aware of religious differences. He spent most of his childhood in Louisiana and Texas, though he lived for a year and a half in New York. He called German a “Jewish beauty,” and there is a passage in his essay, “The Collective,” that describes the death camp in Minsk and a man at the factory with a brand on his forearm.

And there is even a vague suggestion in Oswald’s writings that he wanted to belong to this community, in so far as there could be said to be a Jewish community in a country that was officially godless. He enjoyed the sense of family — the Zigers often had him over for dinner, and the New Year’s Eve he spent with German and her extended family, replete with heavy drinking and dancing, was probably his most memorable night in the Soviet Union — and he admired Alexander Ziger’s and Rubinchik’s intelligence and culture.

Oswald had fashioned himself an intellectual before he arrived in the Soviet Union, and he frequented the opera and music conservatory, things that he almost certainly associated with Jews.

But Oswald probably did not appreciate the ways in which the Jewish sense of otherness shaped his thinking. In fact, this sense of otherness had made itself felt long before Oswald even knew there was a country called the Soviet Union. It was a random protester, demonstrating on behalf of the Rosenbergs, who first alerted him to radical politics.

This probably took place in late 1952 or 1953, when people were still protesting the Rosenbergs’ conviction and when the Oswalds were living in New York, where Lee would have been likelier to encounter a sympathizer of the Rosenbergs than in, say, Texas.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.