Marita Lorenz, who became pregnant after an affair with Fidel Castro, but who balked at poisoning the Cuban dictator in a U.S.-linked plot by counter-revolutionaries, died on Aug. 31 in Oberhausen, Germany. She was 80.
The cause was cardiac failure, her daughter, Monica Mercedes Pérez Jiménez, said.
The daughter of an American actress with whom she was interned as a child in a concentration camp and a father who commanded a U-boat fleet, Ms. Lorenz led a swashbuckling life so implausible that separating the morsels of reality from what may have been unprovable or illusory was, at times, virtually impossible.
Her romance with Castro and another with Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the Venezuelan generalissimo who fathered their daughter, both appear to have been confirmed. But whether she and Castro produced a son named Andre, who grew up to be a pediatrician in Cuba, is arguable.
So was her detailed account of driving in November 1963 with Frank Sturgis, later convicted as one of the Watergate burglars, and Lee Harvey Oswald to Dallas, where they met with Jack Ruby and E. Howard Hunt — who was later also a Watergate burglar and one of President Richard Nixon’s so-called plumbers — on the eve of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. (Oswald killed Kennedy on Nov. 22; two days later, Ruby murdered Oswald.)
Her account of the prelude to the assassination was reported in The Daily News of New York in 1977 and repeated in testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded that it was unreliable.
Still, her saga was enough for Vanity Fair to describe her in 1993 as “a patron saint of conspiracy buffs.” It was also enough to flesh out a number of books, including “Marita: One Woman’s Extraordinary Tale of Love and Espionage From Castro to Kennedy” (1993), written with Ted Schwartz, which Kirkus Reviews described as “the wild — if nearly incredible — adventures of a new Jane Bond.” Her testimony to the House committee was the basis for Mark Lane’s book “Plausible Denial” (1992).
Her escapades — including her involvement in a plot to kill Castro in 1960 by placing poison pills in his food, which she said she foiled by informing him of the plot — also inspired the made-for-television film “My Little Assassin” (1999), which starred Gabrielle Anwar as Ms. Lorenz and Joe Mantegna as Castro.
After interviewing her in 1982, an FBI agent, Larry Wack, concluded that she “may be providing information of some significance,” but that she had “a penchant for exaggeration.”
Ilona Marita Lorenz was born in Bremen, Germany, on Aug. 18, 1939, two weeks before the outbreak of World War II. Her mother, Alice Lofland, an actress who performed under the name June Paget, was on her way to film a movie in France in the early 1930s when she met and married Heinrich Friedrich Lorenz, a ship captain. After rescuing two Allied soldiers during the war, she was recruited into the French underground. She served until she was captured and sent, along with 5-year-old Marita, to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
After the war the family moved to Manhattan, where Marita’s mother worked for U.S. intelligence and her father became captain of the liner Berlin. Ms. Lorenz, who quit school after the ninth grade, was 19 years old and accompanying her father in 1959 when the ship docked in Havana and Castro invited himself onboard.
She claimed that she had a child with Castro, but that the almost full-term fetus was taken from her in Cuba while she was drugged, and raised there. There is conflicting evidence as to whether he exists.
“I know people have questioned my mother, but if you do the research you’ll find it’s shockingly true,” her daughter said. “She changed history. Fidel Castro didn’t die when she was sent to kill him. The only thing I can’t confirm is that she had a son with Fidel. I know that he exists, but I’ve never met him.”
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Lorenz’s survivors include a son, Mark E. Edwards; a brother, Joseph; a sister, Valerie Lorenz; and a grandson.
Ms. Lorenz, who was married several times, said in her book and the Vanity Fair article that from the early 1960s to the late ’80s she spied on United Nations diplomats who lived in her Upper East Side apartment building; lived on welfare in Jackson Heights, Queens; escaped to a small farmhouse in Darien, Connecticut, which was raked with gunfire; and finally marched into the Cuban mission in New York in 1981 and demanded a visa. She said she visited Castro and met her son.
Monica Pérez Jiménez said her mother had dreamed of a glamorous life, not a cycle of wealth and poverty, of near-death encounters with organized crime figures and anti-Castro Cubans and sex with glamorous dictators.
“My mother came from a concentration camp,” she said, “so her desire to be loved was very strong.”