Women involved in espionage are always a subject of great fascination. Perhaps the most famous was Margaretha Geertrudia MacLeod, better known as Mata Hari.
Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer and sex worker captured by the French and convicted for being a spy for Germany during World War I. Mata Hari was sentenced to death by firing squad and died at the age of 41.
While Mata Hari has been covered elsewhere, she certainly casts a long shadow, drawing comparisons with a later figure, known as “the Mata Hari of the Caribbean.” Her name was Marita Lorenz, and in truth this woman was far more.
Marita was the lover of two dictators, a CIA spy, knew insider information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and became the subject of books and made-for-TV movies.
Who was Marita Lorenz, and why is she often called “the patron saint of conspiracy buffs”?
Ilona Marita Lorenz was born in Bremen, Germany, on August 18, 1939. Her mother, Alice Lofland, was an actress and Broadway dancer who met and married German navy captain Heinrich Lorenz while headed to shoot a movie in France.
Heinrich and Alice had four children; the youngest, Marita, was born two weeks before the German invasion of Poland. Marita’s father became a commander of a fleet of U-boats, but Alice was not allowed to return to the US.
She rescued a British pilot and French soldier who recruited the mother into the French and British underground intelligence force. In 1944 Marita, who was only five years old, and her mother, Alice, were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where the Allies later liberated them, and the family reconnected.
After leaving Bergen-Belsen, Alice began working with the OSS, the precursor to the CIA and US Army intelligence. Not much is known about Alice’s spy career, but the family was aware of her high-security clearance and secret work.
What drove her to this life? It comes, at least partially, from childhood trauma: when she was seven, Marita Lorenz was horrifically raped by a US soldier and was brave enough to testify against him in the subsequent trials. From that moment, Marita Lorenz developed a lifelong “pattern of violence and revenge in her relationships with men.”
The Lorenz family moved to Manhattan, New York, in 1950, and Heinrich worked as a captain of luxury ocean liners. Marita Lorenz convinced her family to let her dropout of school in the ninth grade, and she began working with her father on his ships traveling the world. On February 28, 1959, the Lorenz’s and the boat the Berlin arrived and dropped anchor in Havana, Cuba.
First Meeting with Fidel
Marita claimed that she saw a boat approaching with around 30 armed men while her father was taking an afternoon nap in his quarters. Marita said one of the men asked to come aboard her father’s ship, and when the 19-year-old Marita asked who the man was, he said that he was Fidel Castro.
Marita told Vanity Fair’s Ann Louise Bardach that she gave Castro and his men, including Che Guevara, a tour of the ship, had a meal, and when her father woke up from his nap, Marita Lorenz went to her quarters to put on makeup.
She said she was drawn to him instantly, and when the dictator paid her a visit in her room, the pair had sex. Marita returned to Manhattan after she met with Castro, but the pair couldn’t stop thinking about each other. Castro called Marita Lorenz and announced he was sending a plane to take her to Cuba to be with him. In Cuba, Marita Lorenz became one of several of Fidel Castro’s lovers, and according to Marita, she became pregnant with his baby.
The thing about Marita Lorenz was that she told many contradictory stories about her time in Cuba, and there are a lot of details that we do not know and are unsure about. There is no proof for example that Marita Lorenz had a child with Castro, but er claims, if true, are as sinister as they are astonishing.
The first claim was that when she was seven and a half months pregnant, Marita was given drugged milk, and when she woke up, she was in a hospital and was told the baby was fine, yet Marita was no longer pregnant. She also said that this event was a non-consensual abortion, a miscarriage, or she adopted a child.
The confusion around what is true and what isn’t is what made Marita Lorenz such a fascinating person. After this event, Marita Lorenz moved to Florida, where she teamed up with anti-Castro mobs and began a career in espionage, much like her own mother.
Marita Lorenz became introduced to CIA agent and future Watergate burglar Frank Fiorini Sturgis, and the two developed a complicated relationship. While they weren’t lovers, Frank and Marita Lorenz were working for the CIA and spent a lot of time together.
Marita Lorenz said that she was asked by the CIA in 1960 to return to Cuba to assassinate Castro. She was given poison capsules and told to drop them into Castro’s food, he was supposed to make a long speech that night, and if the speech didn’t happen, then the mission was a success.
While Marita Lorenz was upset about Castro’s lack of interest in her having his child, she still loved him, and when the time came to act, she didn’t slip the pills into his food. She claimed that she stored the pills in a container of lotion. When she got to her hotel, the capsules were all “mucked up”.
Marita Lorenz said that rather than killing her former lover, she confessed that she had been sent there to kill him. Instead of being angry or killing her, Lorenz claims that she and Castro had sex, and then he left to make his speech while she returned to Miami.
General Diaz and the Kennedy Assassination
Fidel Castro wasn’t the only dictator that Marita Lorenz was romantically involved with. Marita met Marcos Perez Jimenez, the recently deposed dictator of Venezuela, who was introduced to the young lady as simply “General Diaz” in Miami Beach in 1961.
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Marita Lorenz said the CIA asked her to collect a large sum of money for one of the anti-communist organizations she was a member of, but after the money was received, he “chased me around for six weeks.” Marita Lorenz became pregnant with Jimenez’s child, and she gave birth to their daughter Monica before Jimenez was deported back to Venezuela.
If Marita Lorenz’s life wasn’t dramatic enough, she claimed that she was in Dallas the night before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In her testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations following the death of Kennedy, Marita Lorenz claims that she was introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald in Miami, where he was being trained.
Still, she didn’t know what Oswald, aka “Ozzie,” was being prepared for. Lorenz said that on November 18, 1963, she was called by Sturgis for a job, and she met up with Ozzie, Frank Sturgis, the former head of Castro’s air force Pedro Lanz, and CIA agent Patrick Hemming where the group broke up into two cars and drove through the night to Dallas, Texas.
Marita Lorenz thought the group traveled to Texas to loot an armory and that she was going to be used as a decoy which she had done in the past. However, she claimed that things felt different than other missions.
Sturgis told the crew that they couldn’t use the phone, meet up with local women or drink, and there was to be no contact with anyone outside. Marita Lorenz said that a man who said he was Jack Ruby visited the group in Dallas. Lorenz said Ruby made her angry enough to demand Sturgis buy her a plane ticket home.
After Ruby’s brief visit and conversation with Sturgis, the next visitor to the group was E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent, who would be later convicted of wiretapping and burglary after his involvement in the Watergate Scandal. Marita Lorenz said that she saw Hunt and Oswald speaking together in an adjoining room, and then she left for the airport.
After returning to Miami, she decided to visit her mom in New Jersey; she told reporters and the House Select Committee that halfway through the flight north, the co-pilot announced to the passengers that President Kennedy had just been assassinated in Dallas.
While Marita Lorenz’s stories about her time with Castro, Jimenez, and anti-Castro CIA organizations can all be corroborated, the story about Dallas cannot be proven. The House Select Committee heard her testimony, but the committee concluded that her story was unreliable.
Sturgis, who was alleged to be in Dallas at the time of the assassination but Lorenz herself, has called Marita Lorenz a “liar who double-crossed a lot of people… It’s ridiculous. I’m not saying that everything that Marita says is a lie, but she’ll do anything for money.”
Her role or information about the Kennedy assassination is questionable. Still, she was well acquainted with many of the individuals there, including both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Oswald, as well as the men involved in the Watergate Scandal.
Marita Lorenz died of cardiac failure in Oberhausen, Germany, on August 31, 2019. She was 80 years old and took the truth about much of her life with her when she passed.
Top Image: Marita Lorenz, the Mata Hari of the Caribbean. Source: Buruso / CC BY-SA 4.0.
By Lauren Dillon