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Lee Harvey Oswald’s closest English-speaking friend when Oswald lived in Minsk, then part of the Soviet Union, from 1959-1962. “Erich [Ernst Titovets]…is my oldest existing acquaintance…a friend of mine who speaks English very well …” as Oswald would put it in his Historic Diary. In his book Oswald: Russian Episode, Dr. Ernst Titovets investigates the Russian period of life and activity of Lee Harvey Oswald. 

 

Excerpts of a blogpost. 

Did Oswald Speak in Russian while Living in the Soviet Union?

                                                   John Delane Williams and Ernst Titovets

 ()
 When Titovets learned that Armstrong stated that Oswald spoke no Russian while in the Soviet Union, [18] Titovets was amazed. Titovets stated, “It was a cause of genuine surprise on the part of my old friend Vyacheslav Stelmakh, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Belorussian State University who knew Oswald at the Radio Plant and was also friends with Oswald’s first love Ella German, when I told him a researcher in the States doubts the fact that Oswald spoke Russian. There are still many Russians here in Minsk who would confirm the fact.” 
()

Ernst Titovets apparently decided to read Harvey and Lee for himself, presumably to answer the question, how did Armstrong conclude that Oswald spoke no Russian in Russia? Titovets then sent me an e-mail [35] addressing only those portions of Armstrong’s book that pertained to Oswald’s being in Russia and only those portions that was familiar to Titovets.

TITOVETS VS ARMSTRONG (The Armstrong quotes are from HARVEY AND LEE)

Armstrong:”I wanted to be sure I understood her answer and said, “Ana you knew Oswald from the time he arrived in Minsk until the day he and Marina left for the United States. You and your parents accompanied them to the train station and took photographs (published in the Warren Volumes). During that time he never spoke any Russian, even up to the day he left Minsk?” Ana, once again replied, “No,-not a word. My father always interpreted for him-he was the only person in the family who spoke English…” (p. 288)…“An English-speaking medical student, Erich (Ernst) Titovets, first met Oswald at the Hotel Minsk and later was a regular visitor to his apartment.” (p. 289).

Titovets: Actually, I met Oswald not at the Hotel Minsk, but at the Zigers' apartment. It was in the presence of the whole family: Alexander Ziger, his wife Signora Anna and his two daughters, Anita,  and Eleanora. Oswald spoke Russian and there was no need to interpret for him-  

Armstrong: “At the factory Oswald met another person who spoke English. Pavel Golovachev, the son of a famous Soviet Air Force General…After Pavel and Oswald began spending a lot of time together the KGB asked him to report on Oswald’s activities. He dutifully informed of his contacts with Oswald and kept them apprised of his movements.” (p. 289).

Titovets: Pavel Golovachev did not speak English at all. Once he confided in me that he wished he did and he was sorry he did not speak the language. 

 Armstrong “On October 18 [1960] Lee Harvey Oswald celebrated his 21st birthday. Ella Germann, a girl from the Horizon factory who Oswald had been dating the past two months, and spoke very good English, attended a small birthday party at his apartment.”(p. 311).

Titovets: Ella Germann did not speak English at all.    

Armstrong:”It is clear that Marina associated with Americans, spoke English with Webster and almost certainly spoke English with Oswald… Marina’s ability to read, write, and speak English fluently before she left Russia is indisputable.” (p. 340). 

Titovets: Marina did not speak English at all. It would be really surprising if she would have spoken English with Oswald and completely ignored me even when the three of us were together.   

Armstrong : “When Oswald and Marina met, danced, and agreed to a date the following Friday they spoke a common language. Was it Russian or English? The HSCA asked Marina, ‘At the time were you speaking Russian together?’ She answered, ‘Yes. He spoke with an accent so I assumed he was from another state.’ Oswald came in contact with hundreds of people in Russia, but Marina is the only person-THE ONLY PERSON who said that he spoke Russian while in Russia.” (p. 334).

Titovets: Armstrong is right about there were so many people who met Oswald in Minsk. There are still many living who would have testified to the fact that Oswald spoke Russian to them.  

In the book Oswald: Russian Episode  one can find an illustration with Oswald’s longhand in Russian on the inside cover of a book where Oswald contemplates the names for his future child. Incidentally, Oswald signed his writings.   

When a date-line does not fit Armstrong’s he dismisses it as an error and suggests his “correct” one. To give an example:

Armstrong: “NOTE: We will soon see the date of March 17 is in error.” (p. 333).

Titovets: It is the night at the Trade Union Palace when Oswald first met Marina Prussokova. The date of March 17, 1961 is correct.

 

 

 

Two recent interviews were conducted by Ernst Titovets with persons who had known Oswald when Oswald was living in Minsk. The first interview was with a neurologist Dr. Alexander Mastykin, MD., Ph.D. on March 20, 2013. Mastykin was a medical student at the time he met Oswald. Mastykin was learning Spanish and practiced the language at the Spanish-speaking Zigers family. He knew Anita Zigers very well.

Titovets: Did Anita Ziger speak English at the time she knew Oswald? 

Mastykin: I never heard a single English word ever drop from her lips!

Titovets: John Armstrong wrote a book Harvey and Lee and there, according to John Armstrong, Anita would say to him in an interview that Oswald did not speak Russian at all while he was in Minsk.

Mastykin: It would be Anita all over! I wouldn’t put it past her that she might well invent things and say anything on the spur of the moment, unnecessary true, just for kicks. It might well depend on her mood, how she was approached and if the question was a suggestive one.

Titovets: Did Oswald speak Russian?

Mastykin: To say the truth there was not much love lost between the two of us; I mostly tried to steer away from him. I did not speak English while Oswald did not speak Spanish so it was Russians on those rare occasions when we happened to meet.    

 

-----------    

The second interview was with Vladimir Zhidovich, a leading engineer at the Radio and Cosmic Technologies Department of the Bylorussian State University in Minsk. This interview took place on March 19, 2013. Zhidovich worked together with Oswald at the same shop in the Radio Plant in Minsk.

Titovets: Vladimir, do you know English?

Zhidovich: No, I do not. Why ask? You know that I don’t speak the language!

 Titovets: Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Just answer my questions! Did Oswald speak Russian?

Zhidovitch: Russian was the only language we could communicate with him. He was not a talkative person and his Russian needed much brushing up. But he understood most [of] what he was told to and reacted accordingly.

Titovets: Did anyone at the Radio Plant speak English to him?

Zhidovitch: No way! Nobody knew English around [there] and I never heard anybody speaking English to Oswald at work. Even Stanislav Shushkevich, when he happened to drop over on business to the shop, spoke Russian to him. Now, tell me what’s this all about?

Titovets: A John Armstrong in his book Harvey and Lee insists that Oswald did not speak Russian while those around him spoke mainly English. We both know perfectly well that Oswald did speak Russian and I just wanted to hear it from you to oblige an American friend and researcher who wants to check the fact.

Zhidovitch: First I thought it was some kind of trick question. Of course Oswald did speak Russian!

KK

Edited by Karl Kinaski
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I'm confused. How does the claim that Oswald spoke no Russian fit into Armstrong's two-Oswald theory? I thought that Harvey was the Russian-speaker who went to Russia and Lee was the Marine who stayed home and watched the strippers in Jack Ruby's nightclub. 

 

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10 minutes ago, Ron Ecker said:

I'm confused. How does the claim that Oswald spoke no Russian fit into Armstrong's two-Oswald theory? I thought that Harvey was the Russian-speaker who went to Russia and Lee was the Marine who stayed home and watched the strippers in Jack Ruby's nightclub. 

 

Harvey or Lee, I don't care. The point is, that Armstrong's claim that Harvy/Lee spoke no Russian while in Minsk is wrong as wrong can be, quote HARVEY AND LEE: p. 288 It is clear that Oswald understood and spoke  Russian prior his arrival in Mos­cow,  although the extent of his proficiency remains unknown. It is also clear that after 
he arrived in the Soviet Union, he dared not let anyone know that he spoke Russian, especiall ythe people with whom he spent the most time, the Zigers, who he probably assumed were report ingto the KGB. 

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Ernst Titovets has plenty of criticism of Harvey and Lee, but he also has gone to great lengths to deny Oswald’s obvious connections to American Intel.  According to JFK researcher Millicent Cranor:

Titovets considers the idea that Oswald was connected to either American or Russian intelligence the “wildest speculation.”  “A James Bond fantasy.”  He ignores the evidence of Oswald’s connections to American intelligence as revealed in many books, and seems to hope his readers will ignore it as well, thereby effectively cutting the marionette’s wires.

So what are the facts about Oswald's Russian speaking abilities and how he used them?

“Lee Harvey Oswald” was clearly able to speak, read, and write Russian before he set foot in the Soviet Union.  How did he learn Russian?

Lewis.jpg

 

But did Oswald hide his Russian fluency while in the Soviet Union, in direct contradiction with the claims of Titovets? One person who has studied Oswald’s knowledge of Russian, and how he hid it in the Soviet Union, is Dr. James Norwood, who has an excellent article on the Harvey and Lee website called Oswald’s Proficiency in the Russian Language.   Among the information Dr. Norwood provides:

Norman Mailer’s 1994 Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery was able to make use of Soviet documents first made available after the end of the Cold War.  Dr. Norwood writes, “When Oswald first arrived in Moscow, his Intourist guide, Rimma Shirakova, was puzzled by the strange behavior of the defector.  As recounted in Norman Mailer’s Oswald’s Tale—An American Mystery, ‘He [Oswald] spoke quietly, but at first it could have been a closed door between them.  He didn't seem to know a single word in Russian, so Rimma spoke to him in English.’" 

Mailer also wrote about Oswald’s Russian, “People laughed at him when he talked.  His Russian was so bad people laughed, not mocking, but friendly.  He would try to pronounce words, get them wrong.  They would laugh....He couldn't understand their words, so they showed him with sign language, made animal sounds, and he laughed.”

Dr. Norwood discusses Ernst Titovets as follows (emphasis added):

One of Oswald’s friends in Minsk was a medical student named Ernst Titovets, who acknowledged in his 2013 book Oswald: Russian Episode that Oswald spoke in a “faltering Russian.” [33]  In JFK studies, Titovets was a johnny-come-lately, waiting until the approach of the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination to bring out his memoir.  After his book publication, Titovets has attempted to discredit John Armstrong’s research into the period in which Oswald was in residence in Minsk.  Using sleight-of-hand, specious arguments, and hearsay testimony, Titovets attempts to name individuals who heard Oswald speaking competent Russian during his stay in Minsk.  Undoubtedly, Oswald gave the appearance of attempting to learn the native language over the course of his two-and-a-half years in the Soviet Union.  But nowhere does Titovets provide an example of Oswald’s unsurpassed command of the Russian language, as attested by those in America who appeared before the Warren Commission.  About the best testimonial to Oswald’s language competency while in the Soviet Union was given by Belarusian President Shuskevich, Oswald’s former tutor in Minsk, who described Oswald’s spoken Russian as “passable.” [34]  

Along with his book, Titovets released a set of tape recordings in which he is in conversation with Oswald.  Those tapes offer examples of Titovets and Oswald speaking only in English.  But according to Norman Mailer, who was granted access to the KGB files, Titovets also recorded conversations in which Oswald was attempting to speak in Russian:  “His [Titovets’] Russian-speaking tapes were also studied [by the KGB] to explore any possibility that he [Oswald] was concealing a better knowledge of their language than he pretended to have.” [35]  In other words, the KGB was concerned about the main point raised in this essay, namely, Oswald’s intention of “concealing” to his hosts his fluency in Russian.  

If Titovets genuinely wishes to do a service in the interest of the historical record, he would release the tapes in which he was conversing with Oswald in Russian to offer the public first-hand evidence into Oswald’s Russian language skills while living in the Soviet Union.  Until that happens, Titovets is offering only second-hand evidence with a personal agenda.  At present, there is nowhere in Titovets’ writings an instance of a laudatory comment about Oswald’s fluency in Russian to compare with the superlative tributes given by Oswald’s acquaintances in the United States.  The question is:  Why?   Researcher Millicent Cranor has raised the most pertinent question about Ernst Titovets:  “In his book, Titovets appears to be defending Oswald—but is he really defending the C.I.A.?” 

To read the article by Millicent Cranor discussing Titovets, CLICK HERE.

If we are to believe his claims, Ernst Titovets should release recordings of Oswald speaking Russian in the Soviet Union.  Why had he not done so?

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21 minutes ago, Jim Hargrove said:

Ernst Titovets has plenty of criticism of Harvey and Lee 

 

It is an eyewitness account, not a criticism. It's not only Titovets, it's also Vladimir Zhidovich ( in 2013) and Dr. Alexander Mastykin ( in 2013), who said that Oswald DID speak Russian to them, and that Armstrong's claim that Harvy/Lee spoke no Russian while in Minsk is wrong as wrong can be.

But Armstrong is not only wrong about that, he is wrong claiming, that Marina Oswald and Ella German did speak English with Oswald in Minsk, quote from my first post: 

Armstrong: “On October 18 [1960] Lee Harvey Oswald celebrated his 21st birthday. Ella German, a girl from the Horizon factory who Oswald had been dating the past two months, and spoke very good English, attended a small birthday party at his apartment.”(p. 311).

Titovets: Ella German did not speak English at all.    

Armstrong:”It is clear that Marina associated with Americans, spoke English with Webster and almost certainly spoke English with Oswald… Marina’s ability to read, write, and speak English fluently before she left Russia is indisputable.” (p. 340). 

Titovets: Marina did not speak English at all. It would be really surprising if she would have spoken English with Oswald and completely ignored me even when the three of us were together. 

Close quote

 

 

 

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Everything you cite is according to Titovets, who goes to great lengths to tell us Oswald had nothing to do with American Intel.  Why will he not release recordings of Oswald speaking Russian?  Why does Oswald speak only English in all the recordings Titovets supplied?

Why did a Russian doctor at Botkinskaya Hospital in Moscow say this of Oswald after his fake suicide attempt?

"The patient apparently understands the questions asked in Russian.  Sometimes he answers correctly, but immediately states that he does not understand what he was asked."

 

Botkinskaya.jpg

 

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From Harvey and Lee....


Harvey Oswald spoke only English while in Russia


To learn whether or not Oswald spoke Russian while in the Soviet Union we
need only look at the statements and memories of people who knew him in Russia:

October 1959-Oswald pretended not to speak Russian while at Botkinskaya
Hospital in Moscow. One of the doctors who attended him wrote, "The pa­-
tient apparently understands the questions asked in Russian. Sometimes he
answers correctly, but immediately states that he does not understand what
he was asked."83 This clever doctor spotted, and recorded, Oswald's ability to
understand the Russian language.

January 1960--Oswald spoke no Russian when accompanied by an interpreter
to the Red Cross offices in Moscow.

1960--Oswald sought out and dated only English-speaking Russian girls and
befriended young English-speaking Russian men such as Erich Titovets, Yuri
Merezhinsky, and Pavel Golovachev. Their conversations were entirely in
English.

January 1960 thru May 1962--the entire period during which Oswald lived in
Minsk. Alejandro Ziger worked with Oswald on a daily basis at the factory. Ana
and Elenora Ziger saw Oswald "3 or 4 times a week" at their apartment. None
of the Zigers ever heard Oswald speak Russian.

1961--Only one tape recording of Lee Harvey Oswald's voice is known to ex­-
ist during the time he lived in the Soviet Union. Oswald was recorded speak­
ing English by his Russian friend, Erich Titovets, in Minsk. Titovets said that
he made the recording so that he could study Oswald's Southern accent, in
English.84

May 1961--When Stellina Ivanova learned of Oswald's marriage she said, "How
can that be? You don't know Russian well enough. How can you communicate
to this person? Does she know English?" Oswald told Stellina that Marina
knew two phrases "Switch off the light" and "kiss me, please," in English.85
It seems obvious, from her conversations with Robert Webster in 1959 and
1960, that Marina spoke English quite well.

Mid-1961 thru Dec 1961--Numerous letters written in Russian, allegedly by
Oswald to Marina, were signed by him ("Alik") but the Russian handwriting
does not appear to be Oswald's.

October 22, 1961--Oswald wrote a letter from Minsk to Marina in Kharkov. The
letter is in English while the envelope, which was addressed to Marina in
Russian script, was written by someone else.

After Oswald returned to the US his friend, Pavel Golovachev, wrote several
letters to Oswald, always in English. Marina's Russian friends wrote to her in
Russian.

Oswald's circle of friends was small and limited to English-speaking Russian
Nationals, none of whom said Oswald spoke Russian.

The KGB recorded numerous conversations within Oswald's apartment from
1960 thru 1962. If any of the conversations had been in Russian the KGB
would have noted the extent of his language ability in their reports and im­-
mediately suspected him of being a spy. But neither KGB reports nor interviews
with former KGB agents reveal that Oswald spoke Russian.

In 1995 Norman Mailer sought out and questioned people who knew Oswald
in Minsk, and with the publication of his book it finally became widely known
that Harvey Oswald spoke little or no Russian during the time he lived in
Minsk. Mailer also published transcripts of Oswald and Marina's conversa­-
tions, allegedly recorded in Oswald's apartment and transcribed by the KGB.
Unfortunately, no one outside of the Soviet Union has listened to the tapes
and the authenticity of the transcripts is unknown.

Ana Ziger told the author in 1998 that she never heard Oswald speak Russian
during the time she knew him in Minsk.

--from Harvey and Lee, pp. 339-340, Copyright © 2003 by John Armstrong.  All rights reserved.

 
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Karl:

You would believe and trust a Russian biochemist who came out after 50 years over an American researcher?   It seems that Titovets' book is more a refutation of Armstrong's work, than an account of his dear friend Lee.  Or, perhaps it was intended to exonerate or obfuscate Marina Prusakova and her true associations.  Titovets apparently stated in a 1993 PBS documentary that he was “paid to befriend LHO and make the recordings”.  He was the same age as Oswald, and since Oswald was under surveillance in Minsk, his association suggests that he was cooperating with the KGB.  And we are to take the word of Anita Ziger as gospel?  Oswald's supervisor at the factory was Alexander Romanovich Ziger - with likely CIA connections - and his family was relocated from the Soviet Union by US authorities after the assassination.  Then there is Inessa Yakhliel, who met Lee in Minsk in 1961. Yakhliel recalled her friendship with the young couple in a 2013 interview with Radio Free Europe:

RFE/RL: Was he a kind man? Was he friendly?

Yakhliel: I think he was. Although, you know, I don't think he let people he didn't know well too close to himself, but there was a certain circle of people: the so-called Erik [or Ernst] Titovets -- not the best specimen -- myself, some other people, I won't try to remember them all now. [The Oswalds] were very hospitable.

I wonder what she means by "not the best specimen".

Gene

 

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Gene Kelley "You would believe and trust a Russian biochemist who came out after 50 years over an American researcher? "   That is about the strangest and above all most biased sentence I have come across here. Not sure you win a price though......

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Gene's statement doesn't sound biased to me.  Mr. Kamp apparently takes the side of a Russian who appears in the U.S. fifty years after the assassination to tell us that Oswald's connection to U.S. or Russian Intel was the “wildest speculation.... A James Bond fantasy.”  

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1 hour ago, Jim Hargrove said:

Virtually everything in Mr. Parnell's blog article relating to Oswald's use of language in the USSR is ultimately attributable to Titovets, a man with a clear agenda to deny Oswald's connections to U.S. Intel.

Except for Ana Ziger's statement that her father translated "because he [LHO] spoke Russian poorly." Armstrong quotes from the Ziger's extensively and considers them reliable witnesses when they suit his purposes. 

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1 hour ago, Jim Hargrove said:

Gene's statement doesn't sound biased to me.  Mr. Kamp apparently takes the side of a Russian who appears in the U.S. fifty years after the assassination to tell us that Oswald's connection to U.S. or Russian Intel was the “wildest speculation.... A James Bond fantasy.”  

Even stranger......do yourself a huge favour Jimbo, stop asserting as you are not very good at it.

 

How about this tho in relation with your Harriet and Lillian fairy tales...

The guy who cooperated/researched with Armstrong on the book and he disavowed it (H&L) and they did not happen to speak to each other for a year, and he still thinks it is rubbish. Go figure.

Edited by Bart Kamp
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