Ellen Rometsch, one of seven children, was born in Kleinitz, Germany, on 19th September, 1936. At the end of the Second World War Kleinitz became part of East Germany. Romesch joined the Communist Party Youth Group and worked as a typist at the district administration before escaping with her family in 1955. (1)
After a failed first marriage she "moved in 1961 to the United States with her second husband, Rolf Rometsch, a sergeant in the West German air force who was assigned to the German Embassy in Washington." (2) According to The Daily Mail: "Rometsch was sent to America by the Communist leaders in East Berlin who hoped that she would befriend powerful politicians and report back." (3)
In 1961 Bobby Baker established the Quorum Club. This was a private club in the Carroll Arms Hotel on Capitol Hill. "Its membership was comprised of senators, congressmen, lobbyists, Capitol Hill staffers, and other well-connecteds who wanted to enjoy their drinks, meals, poker games, and shared secrets in private accommodations". (4)
Time Magazine reported: "Among the 197 members are many lobbyists and several governmental figures, including Democratic Senators Frank Church of Idaho, Daniel Brewster of Maryland, J. Howard Edmondson of Oklahoma and Harrison Williams of New Jersey. Among Republican members are two Congressmen, Montana's James Battin and Ohio's William Ayres." (5)
Ellen Rometsch joined the Quorum Club as a waitress. "She was a Washington party girl... she was stunningly attractive, an Elizabeth Taylor look-alike." (6) Members of the club soon began paying attention to Rometsch. "Clad in a scanty black skin-tight uniform, with black mesh hose, the West German beauty compared favourably with the nude painting which adorned the plush back bar. Whether it was the Quorum Club outfit or her natural endowments, or both, Elly began moving in a real swinging set." Bobby Baker seemed very interested in her and took her on holiday to New Orleans." (7)
Bill Thompson, was a railroad lobbyist and an intimate friend of President John F. Kennedy. "A wealthy bachelor, he was privy to many of the secrets of Kennedy's love life." (8) Thompson discovered Rometsch at the Quorum Club and asked Baker about her. Baker told him, "She was a very lovely, beautiful party girl... who always wore beautiful clothes. She had good manners, and she was very accommodating. I must have had fifty friends who went with her, and not one of them ever complained. She was a real joy to be with." (9)
Baker admitted that he introduced Rometsch "to Jack Kennedy at his request". According to Baker he often arranged for women to meet politicians. This included Kennedy who "seemed to to relish sharing the details of his conquest; though he was not without charm or wit in relating the clinical complexities, he came off as something of the boyish braggart." Baker later said that: "He (Kennedy) sent back word it was the best time he ever had in his life. That was not the only time. She saw him on other occasions. It went on for a while." (10)
Baker told Lyndon B. Johnson about Kennedy's relationship with Rometsch. He in turn informed his friend, J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In July 1963, FBI agents questioned Rometsch about her past. They came to the conclusion that she was probably a Soviet spy. Hoover actually leaked information to the journalist, Courtney Evans, that Rometsch worked for Walter Ulbricht, the communist leader of East Germany. A top-level FBI memo written in October, 1963, stated it was "alleged that the President and the Attorney General had availed themselves of services of playgirls." (11)
Hoover now leaked the information to Clark Mollenhoff. On 26th October, 1963, he wrote an article in the Des Moines Register claiming that the FBI had "established that the beautiful brunette had been attending parties with congressional leaders and some prominent New Frontiersmen from the executive branch of Government... The possibility that her activity might be connected with espionage was of some concern, because of the high rank of her male companions". Mollenhoff claimed that John Williams "had obtained an account" of Rometsch's activity and planned to pass this information to the Senate Rules Committee, the body investigating Baker. (12)
The following day Robert Kennedy sent La Verne Duffy to meet Ellen Rometsch. His mission was to silence Rometsch before the press got to her. It was reported a few days later "men flashing U.S. security badges saw Mrs Rometsch and got her to sign a statement formally denying intimacies with important people." In a letter to Duffy she thanked him for providing her with money and assured him, "Of course I will keep quiet." (13)
Kennedy now contacted Hoover and asked him to persuade the Senate leadership that the Senate Rules Committee investigation of this story was "contrary to the national interest". He also warned on 28th October that other leading members of Congress would be drawn into this scandal and so was "contrary to the interests of Congress, too". Hoover had a meeting with Mike Mansfield, the Democratic leader of the Senate and Everett Dirksen, the Republican counterpart. What was said at this meeting has never been released. However, as a result of the meeting that took place in Mansfield's home the Senate Rules Committee decided not to look into the Rometsch scandal. (14)
It is claimed that Baker had tapes and photographs of JFK's sexual activities involving Rometsch. He also knew about JFK's earlier relationships with Maria Novotny and Suzy Chang, both of whom were from Communist countries and had been named as part of the spy ring that had trapped John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War. When Robert Kennedy was told about this information, he ordered her to be deported. "Hoover cooperated with RFK in this instance - not to help protect the president - to protect the vice president, who he feared could be connected to a Baker prostitute if the ongoing investigations led to a public disclosures." (15)
In September 1963, Ellen Rometsch was divorced by her German husband. She went to live with her parents in Schwelm. The following month newspapers in some countries began publishing articles about Rometsch's relationship with Kennedy. The British tabloid Daily Express offered Ellen Rometsch 55,000 marks for an interview with her, but this was rejected. (16) On the day that Kennedy was assassinated, Life Magazine published a seven-page story about their relationship. The article characterized Rometsch as a woman who had often been invited to social events, "partly because of her good looks and partly, as reported, she would do anything". (17)
It is claimed that Ellen Rometsch returned to the United States in 1964 and had an affair with Gerald Ford during his time on the Warren Commission where he was tasked with investigating President Kennedy’s assassination. The affair was used against him by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover who was frustrated that the Warren Commission was not sharing their findings, "So, (Hoover) had this tape where Jerry Ford was having oral sex with Ellen Rometsch. You know, his wife had a serious drug problem back then… Hoover blackmailed… Ford to tell him what they were doing." (18)
In December 2013, the German newspaper, Die Welt, attempted to interview Rometsch. "What exactly happened between her and Kennedy, about the today 77-year-old does not want to talk. Anyone who wants to speak to them and ring their doorbell will be opened by their husband. He too will not say much, but three things are important to him. His wife had never been a spy in the service of the Stasi. The newspaper reports that the Kennedy clan had bought the silence of Ellen Rometsch with payments to a Liechtenstein account, was nothing. And what happened in Washington at that time should forever remain a purely private affair of the couple."
The newspaper went on to explain that it has a copy of a 478-page file with the code number 105-122316, that was produced by the FBI on Rometsch, although much of it has been redacted. The most interesting thing about this file is that the FBI investigators were in contact with Rometsch from July 1963 to 1987. The newspaper has also investigated her links with East German intelligence: "In the archives of the Stasi documentation authority, there is not a single record in the intelligence files about the members of the family of Ellen Rometsch, who once lived in Saxony. Together with the findings of the Western intelligence services, therefore, everything speaks for the fact that the former East German citizen has never spied for the East." (19)
During the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, probably the richest man in the Senate was the most corrupt of senators: Kerr of Oklahoma, whose devious enriching ways are candidly described by his lieutenant, Bobby Baker, in the latter scoundrel's memoirs. To perceive how deep in peculation was President Johnson himself, assisted by his agents Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes, one may turn to the recent memoirs of a Republican of integrity, Senator Carl Curtis, entitled Forty Years Against the Tide.
Information has been developed that pertains to possible questionable activities on the part of high government officials. It was also alleged that the President and the Attorney General had availed themselves of services of playgirls.
Had Bobby Baker provided entertainment facilities for persons doing business with the Government, "and by entertainment facilities I refer to personnel, including party girls"?
There has been no testimony that Baker himself was involved in supplying party girls, although several of his Washington pals have been described as practitioners of the so-called "get-a-contract-with-a-girl" form of business promotion.
Had Baker been involved in deportation proceedings against one Ellen Rometsch?
Ellen Rometsch, a party girl of peculiar tastes, was sent back home to West Germany last summer after the FBI began investigating her sex habits. "Elly" is remembered as a sometime hostess at the Quorum Club, a Washington watering spot for lobbyists and Congressmen that Baker helped organize. Though Baker, as well as other men about Washington, probably breathed a sigh of relief when Elly left, he apparently had no part in getting her deported. She was subsequently divorced by her West German army sergeant husband on grounds of "conduct contrary to matrimonial rules."
There was a great deal of going and coming at the townhouse, and there were parties inside and out back on the patio, but the parties were circumspect and there were no complaints from the neighbors. One of the guests who came over for parties was statuesque, twenty seven-year-old Mrs. Ellen Rometsch, wife of a West German army sergeant who was assigned to the German Military Mission in Washington. The curve some brunette arrived in the United States in April, 1961, with her husband and their three-year-old son. They rented a $200 a month brick house in North Arlington, Virginia, not far from the Washington Golf and Country Club. But Elly Rometsch spent very little time at home-especially after she discovered the Quorum Club.
The Quorum was an intimate drinking and eating spot hidden away on the second floor of the Carlton Arms Hotel, just across the street from the Senate office buildings. It was founded in 1961, the year Elly Rometsch arrived from West Germany. One of the Quorum Club's incorporators was Bobby's law associate, Ernest Tucker. The club's first president was Scotty Peek, Bobby's buddy, from Senator Smathers' office, and the first secretary of the club was none other than the indefatigable secretary to the senate majority, Bobby Gene Baker himself. As might be imagined, one of the members was North American Aviation's man in Washington, Fred B. Black, Jr. Another was Melpar's president, Ed Bostick. The membership of the club, all male, included many of Washington's top lobbyists, four Democratic Senators, two Republican congressmen, two top level aides to President Lyndon Johnson, several big business executives, and a smattering of congressional staff administrators from both political parties.
When a girl is new in town, as Elly Rometsch was, the Quorum Club could provide a springboard to a number of levels in Washington society including the sportier ones. Elly got herself a job as one of the Club's waitresses. Clad in a scanty black skin-tight uniform, with black mesh hose, the West German beauty compared favorably with the nude painting which adorned the plush back bar. Whether it was the Quorum Club outfit or her natural endowments, or both, Elly began moving in a real swinging set. Once, at least, she went along with Bobby and Nancy Carole and Paul Aguirre, a friend from Puerto Rico, on a jaunt to New Orleans.
The chief counsel for the Senate Rules Committee said that Bobby's Puerto Rican friend told committee investigators that if he were "asked anything about what took place [on the trip to New Orleans] he would take all the amendments, from 1 to 28." The Rules Committee did not call Paul Aguirre, but Senator Hugh Scott reported on some of what the Puerto Rican told the committee's investigators. "Mr. Aguirre admitted that Baker brought Carole Tyler and Ellen Rometsch with him from Washington to New Orleans on the May, 1963, trip."
Bobby Kennedy soon had more on his mind than the Journal American and its uncooperative reporters. On July 3 Hoover informed him of yet another allegation about his brother-one involving Ellen Rometsch. Hoover reported, according to a summary written by Courtney Evans to an assistant FBI director, that a sometime bureau informant had spent time with Rometsch and been told that she was having "illicit relations with highly placed governmental officials." That phrase, Evans and Bobby Kennedy had to assume, included the president. There was an ominous new factor in Hoover's revelation, however: "Rometsch is alleged," Evans quoted Hoover as saying, "to be from East Germany and to have formerly worked for Walter Ulbricht," the communist leader of East Germany. The Profumo affair had arrived in Washington.
Bobby Kennedy quickly sought to minimize the report, telling Evans that "he was appreciative of the Director's sending this information to him on a confidential basis, and there always are allegations about prominent people that they are either homosexuals or promiscuous." But the attorney general was anything but casual about Hoover's allegation. "It was noted," Evans said in a memorandum to Hoover, "that the AG made particular note of Rometsch's name." Bobby Kennedy also expressed "his appreciation," Evans said, for the FBI's discretion in handling the matter.
That summer, the FBI's counterintelligence division opened an investigation into Rometsch as a possible spy. "I knew the allegations," Raymond Wannell, head of FBI counterintelligence, said in a 1997 interview for this book. "I knew it was a serious matter. I didn't know if they were proved" or disproved.
The Kennedy brothers did not wait for the FBI's report. On August 21, 1963, Rometsch was abruptly deported to Germany, at the official request of the State Department. She was escorted home by LaVern Duffy, one of Bobby Kennedy's associates from his days on the Senate Rackets Committee; the two flew to Germany on a U.S. Air Force transport plane. There are no known records documenting her departure, according to the State Department. Rolf Rometsch left the country a few days later; he was granted a divorce in late September on grounds of his wife's "relations with other men."
Duffy, a lifelong bachelor who died in 1992, had been dating Rometsch for months before she was deported; he was seen having drinks with her in the summer of 1963 at the Quorum Club. It was that connection, apparently, that prompted Bobby Kennedy to ask for Duffy's help in getting Rometsch out of Washington and in keeping her quiet. There is much evidence that Rometsch and Duffy were in love. Over the next few months, Rometsch sent Duffy a series of passionate letters, expressing her deep feelings about him - and also thanking him for sending her money. One of Rometsch's letters, dated April 8, 1964, and made available for this book, urged Duffy to send her money by personal check rather than by money order. "Which way you send it is up to you," Rometsch wrote in her fractured English. "The bank is telling me that it would be more easy for them and the money would be fester in my hands if you should make up a check payable to me. You ask your Bank about it. It was not clear whether Rometsch was referring to a token gift from Duffy or a substantial transfer of funds.
Lyndon Johnson: Have you heard about this tape recording that's out?
George Smathers: No.
Lyndon Johnson: Well, it involves you and John Williams and a number of other people.
George Smathers: You mean, some woman?
Lyndon Johnson: Yep.
George Smathers: Yeah, I've heard about it. And it involves Hugh Scott.
Lyndon Johnson: But it's a pure made-up deal, isn't it?
George Smathers: I don't know what it is. I never heard of the woman in my life... But she mentions President Kennedy in there.
Lyndon Johnson: Oh yeah, and the Attorney General (Robert Kennedy) and me and you and everybody. And I never heard of her.
George Smathers: Thank God, they've got Hugh Scott in there. He's the guy that was asking for it. But she's also mentioned him, (laughs) which is sort of a lifesaver. So I don't think that'll get too far now. (Everett) Jordan's orders.
Lyndon Johnson: Can't you talk to him? Why in the living hell does he let Curtis run him? I thought you were going to talk to Dick Russell and go talk to Curtis and make Dirksen and them behave.
George Smathers: Jordan has assured me over and over again.
Lyndon Johnson: Well, he's not strong enough though, unless someone goes and tells him now.
George Smathers: That's right. Now Dick Russell is the man that ought to do it. And I've asked Dick to do it and Dick has told me that he would....
Lyndon Johnson: They had this damned fool insurance man, in and they had him in a secret session and Bobby (Baker) gave me a record player and Bobby got the record player from the insurance man (Don Reynolds). I didn't know a damned thing about it. Never heard of it till this happened. But I paid $88,000 worth of premiums and, by God, they could afford to give me a Cadillac if they'd wanted to and there'd have been not a goddamned thing wrong with it.... There's nothing wrong with it. There's not a damned thing wrong. So Walter Jenkins explained it all in his statement. This son of a bitch Curtis comes along and says, well, he wouldn't take any statements not sworn to. They had their counsel come down and Walter Jenkins handled it, told him exactly what was done.... A fellow said Manhattan is the only company that would write on a heart attack man.... Bobby said, "Hell now, wait, let my man handle it and he'll get a commission off of it." So we said all right... Now he said - Walter - "I'll swear to it." "No, I want a public hearing so I can put it on television." Now that oughtn't to be. Now George, I ought not to have to get into that personally.
George Smathers: Absolutely not.... And Dick Russell has got to exercise his influence. He must do this and I think you've got to talk to him about it and just say you've got to do it. I'll talk to Jordan. Jordan thinks I'm guilty of something. So he thinks I may be covering up trying to protect myself. Hubert has been really good in this and, believe it or not, Joe Clark' has finally gotten the picture and he's trying to stop it now. But Hugh Scott and Carl Curtis are going wild, and Jordan doesn't have enough experience or enough sense to gavel them down and shut them up. But if Dick will talk to him-really talk to him and say
Lyndon Johnson: I think he needs to talk to Curtis too. Why don't you tell Dick to do that?
George Smathers: I will. I've already talked to him.
Lyndon Johnson: I hate to call him.... Get Dick to go see Curtis in the morning and just say, "Now quit being so goddamn rambunctious about this, Carl."
George Smathers: Can I tell Dick this is not right and you know about it? And naturally it makes you apprehensive and you've got all these damn problems and to have this little nitpicking thing. It's just not fair.
Lyndon Johnson: It's not.
George Smathers: So I'll do it.
Lyndon Johnson: Tell him he's the only one can do it. And he can do it. And if he was involved I'd damned sure walk across the country and do it.
George Smathers: Exactly. All right, that's a damned good thought and I'll do it. I've already talked to him about it, but I...
Lyndon Johnson: The FBI has got that record.' Now you know I think you ought to leak it. I don't know who you can leak it to. But I've read the goddamn tax report and I've read the FBI report and there ain't a goddamn thing in it that they can even indict him on. The only thing that they can do is that he puffed up the financial statement, which everybody's done. If he pays that off, they couldn't convict him on that....
George Smathers: They won't print that 'cause I tried to leak that the day before yesterday to ... two different sources and it hasn't been printed. They just want to print this ... ugly stuff.... That Curtis is mean as a snake. (Everett) Dirksen sat in the room the night of the day after you became President with me and Humphrey and agreed that this thing ought to stop and that he would get Curtis to stop it. ... You know, there's some statement about Dirksen and Kuchel with this German girl.' So he said, "It is just ridiculous and it ought to stop." I think we can handle everybody on our side. Howard Cannon is the smartest fellow over there, but he's a little afraid to do anything because he himself figures he was involved out in Las Vegas. So he's a little afraid to be as brave as he ought to be. ... I'll tell Dick this. I've already told him once, but
Lyndon Johnson: Tell him he ought to talk to Dirksen and Curtis both. Please do it, and also Jordan. He's just got his work cut out Monday 'cause they're going to meet Tuesday and they're going to want a public hearing.' And then that's a television hearing, and then a television hearing about my buying some insurance. And what in the goddamn hell is wrong with my buying insurance? I paid cash for it, wrote them a check for it, made my company the beneficiary, and they didn't deduct it. No tax deduction. We'll do it after we pay our taxes. We pay the premium-only reason being if I died, my wife would have to pay estate tax on me on account of she'd have to sell her stock and they want the company to have some money to buy her stock so she doesn't have to lose control of her company.
What exactly happened between her and Kennedy, about the today 77-year-old does not want to talk. Anyone who wants to speak to them and ring their doorbell will be opened by their husband. He too will not say much, but three things are important to him. His wife had never been a spy in the service of the Stasi. The newspaper reports that the Kennedy clan had bought the silence of Ellen Rometsch with payments to a Liechtenstein account, was nothing. And what happened in Washington at that time should forever remain a purely private affair of the couple.
The wish is as understandable as hopeless. Kennedy is a myth. The greater the secrecy, the greater the fascination. There are the rumors about opaque relationships with the mafia. The secret of a serious illness that was hidden from the public. And above all the gossip about cracks in the perfectly staged marriage with Jacqueline. Kennedy, the womanizer. The light figure as a fallible human...
Ellen Rometsch's parents and their seven children were originally from Silesia. Then the family left home and built a new life in Riesa. Ellen - according to birth certificate, she is actually called Bertha Hildegard Elly - worked as a typist at the district administration, her parents were given as administrator a farm. When the GDR leadership wanted to forcibly collect agriculture, the family relocated to the West in 1955.
While the parents again leased a farm in Schwelm near Wuppertal, the daughter made a business apprenticeship and married. The marriage failed quickly. Soon after she met in Siegburg her second husband, with whom she got a son in 1958. The husband hired in the German army and was offered a job in Washington. In early 1961, the Rometschs moved to America. While he dutifully performed his service as sergeant, she was photographed as a model and enjoyed life.
The FBI, the main US police department, began to investigate. The intelligence findings are handed down in a 478-page file with the code number 105-122316, which is now publicly available. First of all, it is noticeable that the FBI investigators engaged in Rometsch for almost a quarter of a century, from 1963 to 1987. Then several passages are blackened in the documents.
The names of witnesses, including their statements, have been largely obliterated. But what is open in the "FBI files Ellen Rometsch" (quote: "wearing thick applied make-up including eyeshadow, has a good figure and a strong German accent") reads like a thriller, in which everything necessary is included: Politics, sex, spying.
Immediately after the first hint from early July 1963, FBI officials visited Rometsch at their Arlington apartment on 3572 N. Military Road and heard them for hours. The wife of the Bundeswehr soldier had to accept unpleasant questions, but apparently she had plausible answers. Because their interrogators then reported to the headquarters: false alarm. Her recommendation was to stop the investigation. Actually, the file could have been closed with it...
Ellen Rometsch left the US in August 1963. At the end of September, her second marriage was divorced because of "the sole fault of the woman". She retired to the leased estate Oberberge her parents in Schwelm. The glamorous party girl she'd been to a few weeks before was now putting on her apron, helping with the beet harvest and milking cows. The dream of the American Way of Life had burst.
But it should get worse. On the last weekend of October 1963, US newspapers reported on the corruption and sex affair in the US capital. And in this context for the first time about Ellen Rometsch. Shortly thereafter headlines appeared in the German press such as "Customs scandal in Washington!" - "Dear beloved wife sergeant" and "Your favor was dear".
Immediately hosts of journalists appeared in front of Gut Oberberge, even a camera crew of the US station NBC arrived. The British tabloid Daily Express offered Ellen Rometsch 55,000 marks for her memories. But the adored the offer, she wanted to give even then no interviews. The reporters were expelled rude by the owner of the estate.
On November 22, 1963, the high-circulation magazine "Life" published an opulent seven-page story: "The scandal in Washington is expanding". The author of the piece characterized Rometsch as a woman who had often been invited to social events, "partly because of her good looks and partly, as reported, 'she would do anything'".
After the attack, public interest in Rometsch noticeably diminished. For the White House, however, the process remained explosive. JFK's successor Lyndon B. Johnson, a protégé of the slain Bobby Baker, wished, according to FBI notes from February 1964, "a summary of the case Ellen Rometsch". The "German Party Girl" already employed the second president of the United States.
Only once, in October 1964, did Rometsch give a short interview. The conversation, which included just six questions and six answers, used the divorced woman to present herself as a demure mother. "I can only say again and again that all this is artificially hyped up because of the election campaign, and I am in the process the helpless victim who can not defend itself," she told the Hamburg magazine "Stern". The claim that she had married only for espionage reasons, so as to come to the United States, Rometsch described as "smooth nonsense".
On this point, she apparently told the truth. In the archives of the Stasi documentation authority, there is not a single record in the intelligence files about the members of the family of Ellen Rometsch, who once lived in Saxony. Together with the findings of the Western intelligence services, therefore, everything speaks for the fact that the former East German citizen has never spied for the East.
Rometsch could do a lot today to classify Kennedy's image as a womanizer. But she does not want that. She lives a quiet, withdrawn life. She married again - her second husband, with whom she was in the US half a century ago.