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Whittaker Chambers

Hiss's accuser, an accomplished writer, editor, and translator, was born Jay Vivian Chambers in Philadelphia in 1901.

By his own account, Chambers had a difficult childhood. His father, an illustrator, abandoned the family when Chambers was a boy. Chambers' brother committed suicide at the age of 23. Chambers said he attempted suicide several times during the course of his life.

During the Hiss trials, the defense demonstrated that Chambers had repeatedly embellished details and invented incidents in his life. His first biographer, Dr. Meyer A. Zeligs, a psychiatrist, years later pointed to a recurring pattern in Chambers' life of befriending and then betraying people he felt drawn to.

In 1925, Chambers joined the Communist Party and said that in the 1930s he had served in the "underground." The date of his departure remains a subject of dispute. Journalists such as William A. Reuben have delved into Chambers' life and questioned the whole basis of his story that he committed espionage for the Soviet Union. Chambers, who in the 1930s translated a number of German books, including "Bambi", was hired by Time magazine in 1939. He was a Senior Editor at Time when he publicly testified against Alger Hiss in 1948. Chambers' autobiography, "Witness," was a best seller in the 1950s. He died in 1961.

Chambers posthumously received the Medal of Freedom award from President Ronald Reagan, under whose administration Chambers' farm in Westminster, Maryland - the site of the pumpkin patch where Chambers dramatically hid the "Pumpkin Papers" in 1948 - became a National Historic Landmark.

For more on Chambers' charges against Hiss, click here to enter the Courtroom.