Alger Hiss Story" Web site has been created with grants
from The Alger Hiss Research and Publication Project of the
Nation Institute and from a Donor Advised Fund at the Community
Foundation for Southern Arizona. This Web site recreates one
of the most important legal cases in this country's history,
often cited as a turning point in 20th century American thinking.
The Web site is dedicated to students of recent American history
at all levels, including high school, college, and post-graduate
work; to the research community of scholars, archivists, and
teachers; and to a wide general audience - to all who Search
for the Truth.
a reference site, "The Alger Hiss Story" has two
principal goals and functions:
to be an authoritative portal for access
to primary information about Alger Hiss, the Hiss case and
the early Cold War years - including new scholarship, newly
released official documents from various governments and government
agencies, and the archival material, such as trial testimony,
court and government records and commentary, collected in
many libraries and online repositories;
to act as the digitized and online counterpart
to the Alger Hiss Papers at the Harvard Law School Library.
Acting in tandem with the Harvard collection, this Web site
will post a complete summary of the charges against Alger
Hiss and a comprehensive look at the case for the defense.
Again in tandem with Harvard, this Web site will present the
public life and career of Alger Hiss, both as a lawyer and
a government official, evaluating his goals and accomplishments
through his own words and those of his contemporaries, along
with historical and journalistic studies.
the charges in the Hiss case and the responses to them have
evolved over time. Whittaker Chambers made accusations against
Alger Hiss in the late 1930s, and then expanded those accusations
(and brought them to public attention) in the late 1940s.
Further "post-Chambers" charges against Hiss that
had been originally leveled in the early 1950s came to light
only in the mid-1990s, with the partial release of Cold War
files in Russia and the United States.
the accusations, the Hiss case defense continues to develop,
originally, because there was a need to meet a succession
of legal deadlines, and more recently whenever there has been
an opportunity either to dig further into official records
or to deepen an understanding of the historical material left
behind by the participants in the case or their contemporaries.
Hiss case defense is a living document, moved forward by Alger
Hiss's confidence in his ultimate vindication, and by continuing
public interest in his case (see The
Hiss Case in History). The defense, which began as
an immediate response to the first public charges brought
by Chambers in the late 1940s, has since then been periodically
amplified and strengthened, as new information has been sought
out or has come to light over the course of more than half
a century. There have been several especially intensive and
concentrated stages in this development:
The defense re-analyzed the evidence in
the case during Hiss's 1950 appeal, and conducted an extensive
search for new evidence during his 1952 motion for a new trial.
In the 1970s, pursuant to a Freedom of Information
Act request by Hiss, more than 44,000 documents from government
files - including FBI reports on the case and State Department
records - were made available to Hiss. Information from these
documents was incorporated into his 1978 coram nobis petition
to reverse his conviction.
In the early 1990s, shortly after
the end of the Cold War, Hiss wrote to various Russian officials
asking them to search their files for any evidence that reflected
on his case.
In 1999, in response to a lawsuit filed
by Common Citizen on behalf of four national professional
associations of historians and archivists, a federal judge,
in a landmark ruling, made public more than 4,000 pages of
grand jury testimony from the Hiss case.
In 2000, an effort was mounted to re-evaluate the
documents released from Russian, American, and Hungarian
files during the 1990s that were said by Hiss's detractors
to amount to further proof of his guilt.
In 2001, the House of Representatives authorized the release
of previously secret executive session testimony and investigative
files of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Many of these documents are providing a wealth of information
about the investigation of Alger Hiss and are opening up
avenues of research that had been closed to historians for
over 50 years.
record in the Hiss case is far from complete. Both the Russian
and American governments continue to withhold information
that would throw light on all the accusations brought against
Hiss, and other formerly Iron Curtain countries are have been
slow to make public the records of their Soviet predecessors.
Web site will continue to break new ground. As a reference
site, it is committed to digitizing records (such as the Hiss
case grand jury minutes) that have become public documents
but are available to scholars and students only as photocopies.
It is compiling an unabridged list of the still growing shelf
of books of commentary and interpretation - both pro- and
anti-Hiss - that the case has inspired, and a selection of
the published critical responses that these books have themselves
engendered. Where possible, the site will undertake original
research, interviewing participants and commentators; it also
invites contributions from site visitors who can help extend
the record. The site will encourage the release of all withheld
Hiss often said that, although his life was an open book,
people could find the whole truth about his case only after
they had been given access to the entire story. They could
make up their own minds about him, Hiss said, once the full
facts of his life were available.
Alger Hiss Story" Web site has been launched in that
spirit. The flexibility of the Internet has allowed the site
designers to build a highly accessible site that can serve
those looking for an introduction to the case and others already
more expert who seek in-depth research reports and testimony.
It will be regularly updated, and will also serve as an authoritative
portal to other sites with information about the Hiss case
and early Cold War events, and to sites devoted to the findings
of a new, international, post-Cold War effort by scholars
and researchers in America, Europe and the Far East to bring
the complete facts about the most significant Cold War events
to public attention.
Alger Hiss Story" Web site welcomes your comments and
suggestions. Send them to the site at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web site's Managing Editor, Jeff
Kisseloff, worked with Alger Hiss to help prepare
his coram nobis petition (Click
here to read more about that) and has remained a student
of the Hiss case. He is also the author of "You Must
Remember This: An Oral History of Manhattan From the 1890s
to World War II," "The Box: An Oral History of Television,
1920-1961," and other books. The site has been compiled
with the assistance of New York University Libraries, with
participation from members of the Hiss family, including Tony
Hiss, a visiting scholar in N.Y.U.'s Robert F. Wagner Graduate
School of Public Service. It was designed by Catalyst New
Media, of Boston, Massachusetts.