August 7 Testimony: What did he really know about Alger Hiss?
Chambers first testified publicly against Alger Hiss before
the House Un-American Activities Committee on August 3, 1948.
Two days later, Hiss appeared before the committee. He denied
being a Communist and also said he did not know anyone named
told the Committee he would like to meet Chambers face to
face, but instead of complying with his request, a subcommittee
met privately with Chambers on August 7 to question him about
his book on the HUAC investigation, "The Red Plot Against
America," the committee's chief investigator, Robert
Stripling, said the group was "dazzled" by the intimate details
Chambers revealed about Hiss. Democratic Rep. F. Edward Hébert
said the committee investigated the story and that it "checked
in almost every detail." As a result, both Stripling and Hébert
claim, the committee became convinced that Hiss was lying
and Chambers was telling the truth.
the annotated testimony shows,
Chambers was wrong about many important aspects of Hiss's
life. Hiss later identified Chambers as someone he had known
casually for about a year in and around 1935-1936.
Chambers' inability to recall crucial details about Hiss's
life after 1936 casts doubt on his claim of an intimate friendship
that extended through 1937. Click here
to read the testimony.
is this bird, and what does it have to do with the Hiss case?
Click here for the answer.
and His Affidavit
Alger Hiss first realized that he had known Chambers in
the past, he remembered him as a freelance writer named
"George Crosley." In testimony before the House
Un-American Activities Committee, Chambers denied ever using
the name. During depositons for Hiss's libel suit, Chambers
said it was possible he had used that name. Why did he change
his testimony? The defense had obtained the following affidavit
from a publisher named Samuel Roth. Roth said he had received
submissions from Whittaker Chambers, who wanted to use the
pen name "George Crosley." The defense decided
not to call Roth as a witness, however, because of Roth's
obscenity convictions for actions that would be seen as
harmless today. Click here
to read Roth's affidavit.
did Whittaker Chambers say to Adolf
Berle in his first attempt to talk to a government
official about his take on Communist influence in the U.S.
Government? Did he claim that Hiss was a member of the Communist
underground? For the answer, read a memorandum
from the Hiss defense files in which Berle recounts what
was said in that eventful meeting.
the second trial, the defense called a psychiatrist, Dr. Carl
Binger, to the stand, to explore what Binger called Chambers'
"pathological personality." Dr. Binger mentioned
that Chambers may also have been homosexual (the defense was
exploring this as a possible motive for the charges against
Hiss). This was ridiculed by prosecutor Thomas Murphy. Murphy's
cross-examination of Binger was seen by many courtroom observers
as one of the key moments of the trial. Murphy was aware,
however, that Chambers had given a lengthy statement about
his homosexuality to the FBI. The defense never knew of this
statement, which undoubtedly would have bolstered Binger's
testimony. Click here to
read excerpts from Chambers' talks with FBI agents.
to the Courtroom