Need some background on the case? Click here:

- The Timeline
- The Bookshelf

- The Cast

Video Clip

Watch related video clips:

"Was it So?": Alger Hiss recalls how he handled one of Chambers' more unusual accusations against him.
















The Hiss-Chambers

Chambers' August 7 Testimony: What did he really know about Alger Hiss?

Whittaker 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 Whittaker Chambers.

Hiss 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 Hiss. In 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.

As 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.

What is this bird, and what does it have to do with the Hiss case? Click here for the answer.





Hiss and Chambers juxtaposed

Publisher Samuel Roth
and His Affidavit

When 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. 

As For Chambers...

What 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. 

At 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.

Back to the Courtroom



| Home | Site Map | Courtroom | Bookshelf | Timeline | Cast | Who Was Alger Hiss |