WHITTAKER CHAMBERS, born Jay Vivian Chambers (April 1, 1901 – July 9, 1961) was an American editor who denounced his Communist spying and became an intellectual leader of the American Conservative movement after 1952.
After early years as a Communist Party member (1925) and Soviet spy (1932–1938), he defected from communism (underground and open party) and worked at _Time _ magazine (1939–1948). Under subpoena in 1948, he testified in what became Alger Hiss 's perjury (espionage) trials (1949–1950) and he became an outspoken anti-communist (all described in his 1952 memoir _Witness_). Afterwards, he worked briefly as a senior editor at _ National Review _ (1957–1959). President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1984.
* 1 Youth and education
* 2 Communism and espionage
* 2.1 Harold Ware * 2.2 Other covert sources
* 3 Break with Communism
* 3.1 Berle meeting * 3.2 _Time Magazine_
* 4 The Hiss case
* 4.1 "Red Herring" * 4.2 "Pumpkin Papers" * 4.3 Perjury
* 5 After the Hiss case
* 5.1 _Witness_ * 5.2 _National Review_
* 6 Personal and death * 7 Awards * 8 Legacy * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Further reading * 12 External links
YOUTH AND EDUCATION
Chambers was born in Philadelphia ,
After graduating from South Side High School in neighboring Rockville Centre in 1919, Chambers worked itinerantly in Washington and New Orleans, briefly attended Williams College , and then enrolled as a day student at Columbia College of Columbia University . At Columbia his fellow undergraduates included Meyer Schapiro , Frank S. Hogan , Herbert Solow , Louis Zukofsky , Clifton Fadiman , Elliott V. Bell , John Gassner , Lionel Trilling (who later fictionalized him as a main character in his novel _The Middle of the Journey_), and Guy Endore . In the intellectual environment of Columbia he gained friends and respect. His professors and fellow students found him a talented writer and believed he might become a major poet or novelist.
In his sophomore year, Chambers joined the Boar\'s Head Society and
wrote a play called _A Play for Puppets_ for Columbia's literary
magazine _The Morningside_, which he edited. The work was deemed
blasphemous by many students and administrators, and the controversy
New York City
COMMUNISM AND ESPIONAGE
In 1924, Chambers read
Vladimir Lenin 's _Soviets at Work_ and was
deeply affected by it. He now saw the dysfunctional nature of his
family, he would write, as "in miniature the whole crisis of the
middle class"; a malaise from which Communism promised liberation.
Sam Tanenhaus wrote that Lenin's
authoritarianism was "precisely what attracts Chambers... He had at
last found his church"; that is, he became a
Marxist . In 1925,
Chambers joined the Communist Party of the
Combining his literary talents with his devotion to Communism,
Chambers wrote four short stories in 1931 about proletarian hardship
and revolt, including _Can You Make Out Their Voices?_, considered by
critics as one of the best pieces of fiction from the American
Hallie Flanagan co-adapted and produced it as a
play entitled _
Can You Hear Their Voices? _ (q.v. Bibliography of
Chambers was recruited to join the "Communist underground" and began his career as a spy, working for a GRU apparatus headed by Alexander Ulanovsky (aka Ulrich). Later, his main controller in the underground was Josef Peters (whom CPUSA General Secretary Earl Browder later replaced with Rudy Baker ). Chambers claimed Peters introduced him to Harold Ware (although he later denied he had ever been introduced to Ware), and that he was head of a Communist underground cell in Washington that reportedly included:
Lee Pressman Assistant general counsel of AAA
John Abt Chief of Litigation for AAA (1933-1935), assistant general counsel of the WPA 1935, chief counsel on Senator Robert La Follette Jr. 's La Follette Committee (1936-1937) and special assistant to U.S. Attorney General (1937-1938)
Donald Hiss Brother of Alger Hiss; employed at Department of State
Nathan Witt Employed at AAA ; later moved to NLRB
Charles Kramer Employed at Department of Labor 's NLRB
George Silverman Employed at RRB ; later worked with Federal Coordinator of Transport, U.S. Tariff Commission and Labor Advisory Board of National Recovery Administration
Henry Collins Employed at National Recovery Administration and later Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)
Nathaniel Weyl Economist at AAA ; later, defected from Communism himself and give evidence against party members
John Herrmann Author; assistant to Harold Ware; employed at AAA ; courier and document photographer for Ware group; introduced Chambers to Hiss
Apart from Marion Bachrach, these people were all members of Franklin D. Roosevelt 's New Deal administration. Chambers worked in Washington as an organizer among Communists in the city and as a courier between New York and Washington for stolen documents which were delivered to Boris Bykov , the GRU station chief .
OTHER COVERT SOURCES
Using the codename "Karl" or "Carl", Chambers served during the mid-1930s as a courier between various covert sources and Soviet intelligence. In addition to the Ware group mentioned above, other sources that Chambers dealt with allegedly included:
Harry Dexter White Director of Division of Monetary Research at Treasury
Harold Glasser Assistant Director, Division of Monetary Research, Treasury
Noel Field Employed at Department of State
Julian Wadleigh Economist with Agriculture ; later, Trade Agreements section of Department of State
Vincent Reno Mathematician at U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground
Ward Pigman Employed at National Bureau of Standards, then Labor and Public Welfare Committee
BREAK WITH COMMUNISM
Juliet Stuart Poyntz (circa 1918), whose "disappearance" spurred Chambers to defect
Chambers carried on his espionage activities from 1932 until 1937 or 1938 even while his faith in Communism was waning. He became increasingly disturbed by Joseph Stalin 's Great Purge , which began in 1936. He was also fearful for his own life, having noted the murder in Switzerland of Ignace Reiss , a high-ranking Soviet spy who had broken with Stalin, and the disappearance of Chambers' friend and fellow spy Juliet Stuart Poyntz in the United States. Poyntz had vanished in 1937, shortly after she had visited Moscow and returned disillusioned with the Communist cause due to the Stalinist Purges.
Chambers ignored several orders that he travel to Moscow, worried that he might be "purged." He also started concealing some of the documents he collected from his sources. He planned to use these, along with several rolls of microfilm photographs of documents, as a "life preserver" to prevent the Soviets from killing him and his family.
In 1938, Chambers broke with Communism and took his family into hiding, storing the "life preserver" at the home of his nephew and his parents. Initially he had no plans to give information on his espionage activities to the U.S. government. His espionage contacts were his friends, and he had no desire to inform on them.
In his examination of Chambers' conversion from the political left to the right, author Daniel Oppenheimer noted that Chambers substituted his passion for communism for a passion for God. Chambers saw the world in black and white terms both before his defection and after. In his autobiography, he presented his devotion to communism as a reason for living, but after defecting saw his actions as being part of an "absolute evil."
Adolf A. Berle (circa 1965), who ignored Chambers' report in 1939
The August 1939 Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact drove Chambers to take action against the Soviet Union. In September 1939, at the urging of anti-Communist, Russian-born journalist Isaac Don Levine , Chambers and Levine met with Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle . Levine had introduced Chambers to Walter Krivitsky , who was already informing American and British authorities about Soviet agents who held posts in both governments. Krivitsky told Chambers it was their duty to inform. Chambers agreed to reveal what he knew on the condition of immunity from prosecution. During the meeting, which took place at Berle's home, Woodley Mansion in Washington, Chambers named 18 current and former government employees as spies or Communist sympathizers. Many names mentioned held relatively minor posts or were already under suspicion. Some names, however, were more significant and surprising: Alger Hiss, his brother Donald Hiss, and Laurence Duggan—who were all respected, mid-level officials in the State Department—and Lauchlin Currie , a special assistant to Franklin Roosevelt . Another person named had worked on a top secret bombsight project at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds .
Berle found Chambers' information tentative, unclear, and uncorroborated. He took the information to the White House, but the President dismissed it, to which Berle made little if any objection. Berle kept his notes, however (later, evidence during Hiss' perjury trials).
Berle notified the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of
Chambers's information in March 1940. In February 1941, Krivitsky was
found dead in his hotel room. While police ruled the death a suicide,
it was widely speculated that Krivitsky had been killed by Soviet
intelligence. Worried that the Soviets might try to kill Chambers too,
Berle again told the FBI about his interview with Chambers.
Nevertheless, the FBI took no immediate action, in line with the
political orientation of the United States, which viewed the potential
threat from the
(The FBI did interview Chambers in May 1942 and June 1945, without further action. Only in November 1945, when Elizabeth Bentley defected and corroborated much of Chambers's story, did the FBI begin to take Chambers seriously).
By the time of the Berle meeting, Chambers had come out of hiding after a year and joined the staff of _ Time Magazine _ (April 1939). He landed a cover story within a month on James Joyce 's latest book, _ Finnegans Wake _. He started at the back of the magazine, reviewing books and film with James Agee and then Calvin Fixx. When Fixx suffered a heart attack in October 1942, Wilder Hobson succeeded him as Chambers' assistant editor in Arts an editor named Tom Matthews had gathered a brilliant group of writers, including James Agee , Robert Fitzgerald , Whittaker Chambers, Robert Cantwell , Louis Kronenberger , and Calvin Fixx ... They were dazzling. Time’s style was still very hokey—“backward ran sentences till reeled the mind”—but I could tell, even as a neophyte, who had written each of the pieces in the magazine, because each of these writers had such a distinctive voice.
By early 1948, Chambers had become one of the best known writer-editors at _Time_. First had come his scathing commentary "The Ghosts on the Roof" (March 5, 1945) on the Yalta Conference (in which Hiss partook). Subsequent cover-story essays profiled Marian Anderson , Arnold J. Toynbee , Rebecca West and Reinhold Niebuhr . The cover story on Marian Anderson (December 30, 1946) proved so popular that the magazine broke its rule of non-attribution in response to readers' letters:
Most Time cover stories are written and edited by the regular staffs of the section in which they appear. Certain cover stories, that present special difficulties or call for a special literary skill, are written by Senior Editor Whittaker Chambers."
In a 1945 letter to _Time_ colleague Charles Wertenbaker , Time-Life deputy editorial director John Shaw Billings said of Chambers, "Whit puts on the best show in words of any writer we've ever had... a superb technician, particularly skilled in the mosaic art of putting a _Time_ section together." Chambers was at the height of his career when the Hiss case broke later that year.
During this period, Chambers and his family became Quakers , attending Pipe Creek Friends Meetinghouse near his Maryland farm.
THE HISS CASE
Alger Hiss (1948), who fiercely denied Chambers' allegations and was convicted of perjury
On August 3, 1948, Chambers was called to testify before the House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Here he gave the names of
individuals he said were part of the underground "Ware group" in the
late 1930s, including
Alger Hiss . He thus once again named Hiss as a
member of the Communist Party, but did not yet make any accusations of
espionage. In subsequent HUAC sessions, Hiss testified and initially
denied that he knew anyone by the name of Chambers, but on seeing him
in person (and after it became clear that Chambers knew details about
Hiss's life), said that he had known Chambers under the name "George
Crosley". Hiss denied that he had ever been a Communist, however.
Since Chambers still presented no evidence, the committee had
initially been inclined to take the word of Hiss on the matter.
However, committee member
The country quickly became divided over the Hiss–Chambers issue. President Harry S Truman , not pleased with the allegation that the man who had presided over the United Nations Charter Conference was a Communist, dismissed the case as a "red herring ". In the atmosphere of increasing anti-communism that would later be termed McCarthyism , many conservatives viewed the Hiss case as emblematic of what they saw as Democrats' laxity towards the danger of communist infiltration and influence in the State Department. Many liberals, in turn, saw the Hiss case as part of the desperation of the Republican party to regain the office of president, having been out of power for 16 years. Truman also issued Executive Order 9835 , which initiated a program of loyalty reviews for federal employees in 1947.
Foley Square in 2014 in NYC , site of grand jury and trials of Hiss Case .
Hiss filed a $75,000 libel suit against Chambers on October 8, 1948. Under pressure from Hiss's lawyers, Chambers finally retrieved his envelope of evidence and presented it to the HUAC after they subpoenaed them. It contained four notes in Alger Hiss's handwriting, sixty-five typewritten copies of State Department documents and five strips of microfilm, some of which contained photographs of State Department documents. The press came to call these the "Pumpkin Papers" referring to the fact that Chambers had briefly hidden the microfilm in a hollowed-out pumpkin. These documents indicated that Hiss knew Chambers long after mid-1936, when Hiss said he had last seen "Crosley," and also that Hiss had engaged in espionage with Chambers. Chambers explained his delay in producing this evidence as an effort to spare an old friend from more trouble than necessary. Until October 1948, Chambers had repeatedly stated that Hiss had _not_ engaged in espionage, even when Chambers testified under oath. Chambers was forced to testify at the Hiss trials that he had committed perjury several times, which reduced his credibility in the eyes of his critics.
The five rolls of 35 mm film known as the "pumpkin papers" were thought until late 1974 to be locked in HUAC files. Independent researcher Stephen W. Salant , an economist at the University of Michigan, sued the U.S. Justice Department in 1975 when his request for access to them under the Freedom of Information Act was denied. On July 31, 1975, as a result of this lawsuit and follow-on suits filed by Peter Irons and by Alger Hiss and William Reuben, the Justice Department released copies of the "pumpkin papers" that had been used to implicate Hiss. One roll of film turned out to be totally blank due to overexposure, two others are faintly legible copies of nonclassified Navy Department documents relating to such subjects as life rafts and fire extinguishers, and the remaining two are photographs of the State Department documents introduced by the prosecution at the two Hiss trials, relating to U.S./German relations in the late 1930s.
This story, however, as reported by the _New York Times_ in the 1970s, contains only a partial truth. The blank roll had been mentioned by Chambers in his autobiography _Witness._ But in addition to innocuous farm reports, etc., the documents on the other pumpkin patch microfilms also included "confidential memos sent from overseas embassies to diplomatic staff in Washington, D.C."; worse, those memos had originally been transmitted in code, which, thanks to their (presumably) having both coded originals and the translations forwarded by Hiss, the Soviets now could easily understand.
Hiss could not be tried for espionage at this time, because the evidence indicated the offense had occurred more than ten years prior to that time, and the statute of limitations for espionage was five years. Instead, Hiss was indicted for two counts of perjury relating to testimony he had given before a federal grand jury the previous December. There he had denied giving any documents to Whittaker Chambers, and testified he had not seen Chambers after mid-1936.
Hiss was tried twice for perjury. The first trial, in June 1949, ended with the jury deadlocked eight to four for conviction. In addition to Chambers's testimony, a government expert testified that other papers typed on a typewriter belonging to the Hiss family matched the secret papers produced by Chambers. An impressive array of character witness es appeared on behalf of Hiss: two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Felix Frankfurter and Stanley Reed , former Democratic presidential nominee John W. Davis and future Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson . Chambers, on the other hand, was attacked by Hiss's attorneys as "an enemy of the Republic, a blasphemer of Christ, a disbeliever in God, with no respect for matrimony or motherhood". In the second trial, Hiss's defense produced a psychiatrist who characterized Chambers as a "psychopathic personality" and "a pathological liar ".
The second trial ended in January 1950 with Hiss found guilty on both counts of perjury. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
AFTER THE HISS CASE
Chambers had resigned from _Time_ in December 1948. After the Hiss Case, he wrote a few articles for _Fortune _, _Life _, and _Look _ magazines.
In 1952, Chambers's book _Witness_ was published to widespread acclaim. The book was a combination of autobiography and a warning about the dangers of Communism. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called it "a powerful book". Ronald Reagan credited the book as the inspiration behind his conversion from a New Deal Democrat to a conservative Republican. _Witness_ was a bestseller for more than a year and helped pay off Chambers' legal debts, though bills lingered ("as Odysseus was beset by a ghost").
According to conservative commentator
In 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. started the magazine _National Review _, and Chambers worked there as senior editor, publishing articles there for a little over a year and a half (October 1957–June 1959). The most widely cited article to date is a scathing review, "Big Sister is Watching You", of Ayn Rand 's _ Atlas Shrugged _.
In 1959, after resigning from _National Review_, Chambers and his wife visited Europe, the highlight of which was a meeting with Arthur Koestler and Margarete Buber-Neumann at Koestler's home in Austria. That fall, he recommenced studies at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in Westminster, Maryland.
PERSONAL AND DEATH
A farm in Carroll County, Maryland , like the Pipe Creek Farm , where Chambers took refuge in 1938 and lived until he died
In 1930 or 1931, Chambers married the artist Esther Shemitz
(1900–1986). Shemitz, who had studied at the Art Students League
and integrated herself into New York City's intellectual circles, met
Chambers at the 1926 textile strike at
Passaic, New Jersey
The couple had two children, Ellen and John during the 1930s. (Communist leadership expected couples to go childless, but like many Chambers refused, a choice he cited as part of his gradual disillusionment with communism. )
In 1978, Allen Weinstein's _Perjury_ revealed that FBI has a copy of a letter in which Chambers described homosexual liaisons during the 1930s. The letter copy states that Chambers gave up these practices in 1938 when he left the underground, attributed to newfound Christianity. The letter has remained controversial from many perspectives.
Chambers died of a heart attack on July 9, 1961, at his 300-acre (1.2 km2) farm in Westminster, Maryland . He had suffered from angina since the age of 38 and had previously suffered several heart attacks.
_Cold Friday_, his second memoir, was published posthumously in 1964
with the help of
Duncan Norton-Taylor . The book prophetically
predicted that the fall of Communism would start in the satellite
states surrounding the
* 1937 -
Order of the Red Star
Chambers's book _Witness_ is on the reading lists of The Heritage Foundation , _ The Weekly Standard _, The Leadership Institute , and the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal . He is regularly cited by conservative writers such as Heritage's president Edwin Feulner and George H. Nash .
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded Chambers the Presidential Medal of Freedom , for his contribution to "the century's epic struggle between freedom and totalitarianism". In 1988, Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel granted national landmark status to the Pipe Creek Farm . In 2001, members of the George W. Bush Administration held a private ceremony to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Chambers's birth. Speakers included William F. Buckley, Jr.
In 2007, John Chambers stated that a library with his father's papers should open in 2008 on the Chambers farm in Maryland. He indicated that the facility will be available to all scholars and that a separate library, rather than one within an established university, is needed to guarantee open access.
On January 6, 2010, the Medfield farmhouse at Pipe Creek Farm, in
In 2017, the National Review Institute inaugurated a "Whittaker Chambers Award" for its 2017 Ideas Summit, for presentation on March 16, 2017. The first recipient is Daniel Hannan , dubbed "the man who brought you Brexit " by _ The Guardian _.
Bibliography of Whittaker Chambers
* History of Soviet espionage in the
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ _J_ _K_ Chambers, Whittaker
(1952). _Witness_. New York: Random House. pp. 799 (total). LCCN
* ^ "Whittaker Chambers". Find A Grave. Retrieved September 25,
* ^ _A_ _B_ Packer, George (22 February 2016). "Turned Around". The
New Yorker. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
* ^ Staff."A Sad, Solemn Sweetness", _
Time (magazine) _, November
17, 1975. Retrieved September 24, 2008. "Trilling's first and only
novel, published in 1947, made his name known in an unexpected
circle—the FBI. Titled The Middle of the Journey, the book described
the intellectual torture of a Communist in the process of quitting the
party. Reviews which praised its "assurance, literacy and
intelligence" aroused the interest of FBI agents investigating
Whittaker Chambers' allegations of spying by State Department official
Alger Hiss. Indeed Trilling had shared a class with Chambers when both
were Columbia students, and he frankly admitted fictionalizing
Chambers' story in his novel."
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , p. 28
* ^ Ahearn, Barry (1983). _Zukofsky\'s "A": An Introduction_.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 12. Retrieved 5 March
* ^ Meier, Andrew (August 11, 2008). _The Lost Spy: An American in
Stalin's Secret Service_. W. W. Norton. pp. 224–267, 289–300. ISBN
* ^ Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. "Soviets at Work". marxists.org.
Retrieved 4 September 2016.
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , pp. 70–71
* ^ "Translations". WhittakerChambers.org. Retrieved January 28,
* ^ Haynes, John Earl; Klehr, Harvey (2000). _Venona: Decoding
Soviet Espionage in America_. Yale University Press. pp. 62, 63, 64.
ISBN 0-300-08462-5 .
* ^ Haynes, John Earlne; Klehr, Harvey (2000). _Venona: Decoding
Soviet Espionage in America_. Yale University Press. pp. 91, 126, 65,
90. ISBN 0-300-08462-5 .
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , pp. 131–133
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , pp. 159–161
* ^ Weinstein 1997 , p. 292
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , pp. 163, 203–204
* ^ Olmsted, Kathryn S. (2002). _Red Spy Queen: A Biography of
Elizabeth Bentley_. The University of North Carolina Press. p. 32.
ISBN 0-8078-2739-8 .
* ^ Check url= value (help ). _Time_. May 8, 1948. Retrieved June
3, 2010. line feed character in url= at position 64 (help )
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , pp. 174–175
* ^ Reidel, James (2007). _\'Vanished Act: The Life and Art of
Weldon Kees_. University of Nebraska Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780803259775
* ^ Herzstein, Robert E. (2005). _Henry R. Luce, Time, and the
American Crusade in Asia_. Cambridge University Press. pp. 42–43.
ISBN 978-0-521-83577-0 .
* ^ Saroyan, William (1940). _Love\'s Old Sweet Song: A Play in
Three Acts_. Samuel French. p. 72, 76. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
* ^ Weinstein 1997 , p. 354
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , p. 175
* ^ Tanenhaus 1998 , p. 175
* ^ Vanderlan, Robert (2011). _Intellectuals Incorporated:
Politics, Art, and Ideas Inside Henry Luce\'s Media Empire_.
* Chambers, Whittaker (1952). _Witness_. New York: Random House. LCCN 52005149 . * Chambers, Whittaker (1964). _Cold Friday_. New York: Random House.
* Tanenhaus, Sam (1998). _Whittaker Chambers: A Biography_. Modern Library. ISBN 0-375-75145-9 . * Weinstein, Allen (1978). _Perjury: The Hiss–Chambers Case _. New York: Knopf.
* Official website * "Writings of Whittaker Chambers". American Writers: A Journey Through