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Hede Massing

Hede Massing was a self-confessed former Communist, who was called to testify at the first trial by the prosecution to bolster Whittaker Chambers' charge that Alger Hiss had been a Communust. Massing's testimony was excluded by Judge Samuel H. Kaufman, who ruled that her story was irrelevant to the charges against Hiss. Largely because of that ruling, Kaufman came under attack from conservatives in the press and in Congress and was replaced as the judge for the second trial by Henry W. Goddard.

Judge Goddard permitted Massing to testify over objections by the defense. Massing told the second jury that in 1935 she had met Hiss at a party held at the home of Mrs and Mrs. Noel Field, whom she described as intimate friends of hers. She also said that Noel Field was in the State Department at the time and that he had been a member of an underground Communist group, operating in the Department. Massing testified that she told Hiss at the party, "I understand that you are trying to get Noel Field away from my organization into yours." She said Hiss's response was, "So you are this famous girl that is trying to get Noel Field away from me."

She added that at the end of the brief conversation, one of them said, "Whoever is going to win, we are working for the same boss." She said she couldn't be sure who made the latter comment.

On cross examination, Massing couldn't recall the date of her own marriage to Gerhard Eisler, admitting, "I have a bad memory." She also admitted that with the help of journalist Eugene Lyons (who was feeding suggestions to prosecutor Thomas Murphy during the trial from Richard M. Nixon, among others) she was preparing a series of articles about her life that she hoped to have published. These articles were subsequently published and were adapted into a book called "This Deception."

To rebut her testimony, the defense called Henrikas Rabinavicius, a former OSS member and a friend of Lyons', who said that he had heard Massing give a different and more innocuous account of her alleged meeting with Hiss at a dinner party in Lyons' home in September, 1949, just prior to the second trial. Rabinivicius testified that at the party, Massing said she was sent to Washington to contact young men in the State Department but that she "carefully concealed" her affiliation so as not to frighten them away. She said she was trying to recruit Field into an anti-fascist organization but that she had learned he was already a member of an organization with a colleague of his in the State Department, Alger Hiss. He said she made no reference to any comment Hiss may have made about the two of them working for the same boss.

In his book, "In the Court of Public Opinion," Hiss denied her story, saying he had never met Massing until he was introduced to her by FBI agents in December 1948 and asked by them if he could identify her. He also pointed out that he and Field could not have been in the same State Department organization, because the two were not in the State Department at the same time. Hiss did not enter the State Department until September 1936.

Hiss also wrote that when the defense first read an account of Massing's story in the newspaper during the first trial, a Swiss attorney was asked to contact Mrs. Field, who was then living in Geneva (her husband had disappeared, having been arrested by Czech and later Hungarian authorities). Mrs. Field told the attorney that Hiss and Massing were never in the Field apartment at the same time. Before she could be contacted again by the defense, Mrs. Field also disappeared.

After the Fields were released from prison in 1954, Noel Field, in a letter to Hiss, said Massing's story was "nothing but a lie."


For more on Noel Field's story, click here.