625. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • U.S. Connection of Verwoerd’s Assassin

Verwoerd was killed by Demetrios Tsafendakis, a Portuguese national who was deported from the United States to Greece in 1947. We know nothing yet about his time here except that he was a foreign seaman employed by the Merchant Marine in World War II. His whereabouts between 1947 and 1965 are also vague. He appeared at our consulate in Capetown last November to file a claim for $100,000 in damages resulting from his being deported to Greece, rather than to South Africa (which, he maintained, was his home country). He said that he had made earlier attempts to file his claim at American consulates in France, Switzerland, and Portugal.

Our consul in Capetown informed Tsafendakis that such claims could be filed only through his country’s embassy in Washington or in U.S. Federal Court. He seemed to accept this quietly. He reappeared at the consulate in May, however, and asked that his affidavit be given to Senator Robert Kennedy when the latter arrived in early June. The consulate immediately returned the affidavit with a letter pointing out that Kennedy’s visit was to be very short and busy, and suggesting that Tsafendakis write to him in Washington. (A five-hour search of the Kennedy files this afternoon has yielded no such letter.) This was the last known U.S. contact with the assassin.

We must now decide whether and when to tell the South Africans what little we know about Tsafendakis. Rountree wants to tell them and has asked for instructions. State plans to tell him to go ahead, but will do nothing without White House clearance.

I think we should clear the instruction. In doing so, we run a risk of nasty insinuations by the SAG; but the risks involved in not disclosing [Page 1059] information which is certain to be discovered soon seem to me much greater.


Clear message2

Instruct Rountree not to inform SAG

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Africa, Union of South, Vol. II, Memos and Miscellaneous, 11/64–9/66. No classification marking. Attached is a note from Rostow to the President that reads: “Mr. President: The attached memorandum is self-explanatory. I believe the risks of our silence are greater than the risks of our candor; but I did not wish to clear this without your guidance.” Prime Minister Verwoerd was stabbed to death in the South African Parliament on September 6.
  2. This option is checked and a notation in an unknown handwriting reads: “What does Palmer say?”