Chambers, August 28, 1946
following is a memorandum written by Raymond Murphy, Chief
Security Officer of the State Department, recounting his interview
with Whittaker Chambers.
of Conversation, August 28, 1946
Communist underground in Washington is believed to have been
set up sometime in 1933 after the inauguration of President
Roosevelt. My informant does not know how or when it was set
up, but he believes that Harold Ware had a prominent part
in creating the underground and in enlisting key members.
Ware, of course, could have acted pursuant to orders from
the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the United
informant entered into the Washington picture in the summer
of 1935 and left it and the party at the end of December,
1937. The group was already in being and functioning actively.
Its superior was the Hungarian known as J. Peters, the national
head of the Communist underground movement. My informant acted
as a courier between Washington and New York. He participated
in oral discussions in Washington with the group which Peters
himself conducted. They met only the top layer - in other
words, leaders of cells of the Communist underground in government
informant did not know Coe who taught at McGill University,
but he understood that he was a Communist. The other Coe he
definitely knew to be a Communist. Harry White was reported
to be a member of one of the cells, not a leader, and his
brother-in-law, a dentist in New York, is said to be a fanatical
Communist. Alger Hiss was never to make converts. His job
was to mess up policy. The Post of the State Department was
a cell member. He thought he was of Nat Perlow's group. Post
was formerly of the WPA where he measured skulls. He was definitely
of minor importance in the movement compared with Hiss.
heads of the various underground groups in Washington who
met with Peters were the Hisses, Kramer (Krivitsky), Henry
Collins, who was either secretary or treasurer of the group,
John Abt, Lee Pressman, Nat Perlow, and Nat Witt. These men
met regularly at special meetings. With the exception of Donald
Hiss, who did not have an organization, they headed parallel
organizations. But they did not know the personnel of the
Ware was the top man of these organizations. Upon his death
in 1936 a fight broke out for leadership, but Nat Witt won
out. Sometime after 1937 Witt is said to have been succeeded
were other underground Communist groups operating in Washington,
but this was the elite policy-making, top-level group.) This
group did not exchange secret documents from the government
departments, but did give sealed reports on the membership
of the groups and on policy. It was not a spy ring but one
far more important and cunning because its members helped
to shape policy in their departments. Henry Collins, as secretary
or treasurer, delivered most of the sealed reports to my informant.
At that time Henry Collins was believed to be working in the
Forestry Division of Agriculture.
was in the Agricultural Department of Hungary under Bela Kun.
He was in the Austrian army in World War I. He is a little
dark fellow, small feet and wavy black hair.
the meetings in Washington with this group, Peters would give
pep talks on Communist theory. He would then talk to each
leader separately. Peters often discussed the morale with
my informant. He praised the Hiss boys to my informant very
highly but was doubtful of Pressman. He had a high opinion
of Witt, a slightly less high opinion of Abt, thought Kramer
was a nice boy but shallow and had very little use for Perlow.
He liked Henry Collins.
informant asked Alger Hiss personally to break with the Party
in early 1938, but Hiss refused with tears in his eyes and
said he would remain loyal to the Party.
his break with the Party, Grace Hutchins telephoned the mother
of my informant on Long Island one night and said that if
he did not return to the Party by the following Thursday,
it was a question of his death.
to Coram Nobis and Chambers' Break with the Party