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Meyer Schapiro

Schapiro was a noted professor of art history at Columbia University in New York City, and Whittaker Chambers' classmate and friend while the two were Columbia undergraduates. Schapiro figured prominently in two aspects of the case. Chambers testified that his Russian connection, Colonel Boris Bykov, gave him money to buy gifts for his Communist cohorts. Chambers said he had used the money to buy Bokhara rugs for them. Schapiro, not knowing anything about a Communist connection, purchased the rugs and arranged for their delivery. Schapiro supported this testimony the story at trial. (See also the entry on George Silverman and the section dealing with the rugs).

Questions about Schapiro's involvement and possible perjury in his testimony were raised in the 1970s by New York attorney Raymond Werchen, who compared the rug receipts signed by Mrs. Schapiro and the check signed by Mr. Schapiro, and concluded that the signatures were identical. 

Schapiro also played a prominent role in Chambers' break from the Party. When he first told the story, Chambers said that after he left the Party and went into hiding, he needed money and contacted Schapiro for help. Schapiro arranged for Chambers to do translation work for the Oxford University Press. For Hiss's motion for a new trial, the defense used the company's correspondance with Chambers to trace Oxford's involvement with him, and found this connection had been established before the last date of the State Department documents allegedly collected from Alger Hiss. If Chambers was already in hiding at the time, he could not have gotten the documents from Hiss. 

In response, Chambers then said he was only planning his departure when he got the translation work. According to documents released by the FBI in 1975 that were previously unknown to the defense, Schapiro continued to maintain that Chambers had contacted him for help only after leaving the Communist Party.

He gave similar testimony to the grand jury investigating espionage in 1948. To read the minutes of his testimony, which were not released until 1999, click here.