Name: Jay Vivian Whittaker CHAMBERS
Birth: 01 APR 1901 in Philadelphia, Pa
Death: 09 JUL 1961 in Westminster, Maryland
In 1930 he lived with his mother at 328 Earl Avenue in Lynbrook, NY. He was a transalator for a publisher. While in his twenties he took his mother's maiden name of Whittaker as his name..
Whittaker Chambers was born in Philadelphia on 1st April, 1901. When he was a child the family moved to Long Island. His parents divorced and his brother committed suicide.
After leaving secondary school he did a variety of menial jobs before enrolling as a day student at Columbia University. He became very interested in poetry and he became friendly with Louis Zukofsky, Guy Endore and Lionel Trilling.
In 1924, Chambers began reading the works of Lenin. According to his biographer, Sam Tanenhaus, he was attracted to his authoritarianism and he "had at last found his church." Chambers joined the American Communist Party and worked as a journalist for several left-wing publications.
In July 1927 Chambers joined the Daily Worker. Other contributors included Richard Wright, Howard Fast, John Gates, Louis Budenz, Michael Gold, Jacob Burck, Sandor Voros, William Patterson, Maurice Becker, Benjamin Davis, Edwin Rolfe, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Robert Minor, Fred Ellis, William Gropper, Lester Rodney, David Karr, John L. Spivak and Woody Guthrie. At its peak, the newspaper achieved a circulation of 35,000. Chambers also briefly edited the New Masses.
Chambers became critical of the main tone of articles that appeared in these left-wing journals: "It occurred to me that…I might by writing, not political polemics which few people ever wanted to read, but stories that anybody might want to read - stories in which the correct conduct of the Communist would be shown and without political comment.”
Chambers claimed that he became a spy for the Soviet Union during this period. He later wrote: "I have found that the mood of Communism (despite its atrocious features) is a mood of hope, while the West (despite its gracious features) promotes a mood of despair."
Chambers, like most members of the American Communist Party supported the policies of Joseph Stalin. In the summer of 1932 Stalin became aware that opposition to his policies were growing. Some party members were publicly criticizing Stalin and calling for the readmission of Leon Trotsky to the party. When the issue was discussed at the Politburo, Stalin demanded that the critics should be arrested and executed. Sergey Kirov, who up to this time had been a staunch Stalinist, argued against this policy. When the vote was taken, the majority of the Politburo supported Kirov against Stalin.
On 1st December, 1934, Kirov was assassinated by a young party member, Leonid Nikolayev. Stalin claimed that Nikolayev was part of a larger conspiracy led by Leon Trotsky against the Soviet government. This resulted in the arrest and trial in August, 1936, of Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Ivan Smirnov and thirteen other party members who had been critical of Stalin. All were found guilty and executed.
Chambers began to privately question the policies of Stalin. His friend and fellow spy, Juliet Poyntz, was openly critical and when she disappeared in June 1937 he became convinced that she had been killed by Stalin's agents. In 1938, Chambers left the American Communist Party and fearing for his life he went into hiding.
In April 1939 Chambers joined Time Magazine as a book and film reviewer. It soon became clear that Chambers was a strong anti-communist and this reflected the views of the owner of the magazine, Henry Luce, who arranged for him to be promoted to senior editor in September 1943. Later that year he joined the group that determined editorial policy.
In August 1948 Chambers appeared before the House of Un-American Activities Committee and during his testimony claimed that Alger Hiss, a senior U.S. State Department official, was a spy. Hiss challenged Chambers to repeat in public his accusation that Hiss had been a Communist, Chambers took him up on it. As Time Magazine pointed out: "Two nights later, on the radio, he repeated the charge, in effect challenging Hiss to sue him for libel or slander."
On 8th October, 1948, Hiss filed a $75,000 libel suit against Chambers. However, before the case could be tried, Hiss was indicted for two counts of perjury relating to testimony he had given before a federal grand jury. There he had denied giving any documents to Chambers, and testified he hadn't seen Chambers after mid-1936. A fter a federal grand jury investigation of the cases, Hiss was charged with perjury. His first trial in 1949 ended in a hung jury but in the second trial in 1950, he was found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment.
Chambers wrote about the Hiss case in his book Witness (1952). He wrote: “Like the soldier, the spy stakes his freedom or his life on the chances of action. The informer is different, particularly the ex-Communist informer. He risks little. He sits in security and uses his special knowledge to destroy others. He has that special information to give because he once lived within their confidence, in a shared faith, trusted by them as one of themselves, accepting their friendship, feeling their pleasures and griefs, sitting in their houses, eating at their tables, accepting their kindness, knowing their wives and children. If he had not done these things he would have no use as an informer.... I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism.”
Chambers resigned from Time Magazine and worked during the 1950s for Life Magazine, Fortune and the National Review. Chambers wrote to his friend, William Buckley: "I am a man of the Right because I mean to uphold capitalism in its American version. But I claim that capitalism is not, and by its essential nature cannot conceivably be, conservative."
Whittaker Chambers died after suffering a heart-attack at his home in Westminster, Maryland, on 9th July, 1961.
Whittaker Chambers in 1948
Soviet Union; then USA
"Communist underground" controlled by GRU (prior to defection)
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Jay Vivian Chambers
April 1, 1901
July 9, 1961 (aged 60)
Jay Chambers, Laha Whittaker
Journalist, Writer, Spy, Poet
Whittaker Chambers, born Jay Vivian Chambers and also known as David Whittaker Chambers (April 1, 1901 - July 9, 1961), was an American writer and editor. After being a Communist Party USA member and Soviet spy, he later renounced communism and became an outspoken opponent later testifying in the perjury and espionage trial of Alger Hiss. Both are described in his book published in 1952 entitled Witness.
Father: Jay CHAMBERS b: 17 OCT 1877 in Phiadelphia, Pa
Mother: Laha WHITTAKER b: JUL 1872 in Wisconsin
Esther Thorn SHEMITZ b: 25 JUN 1900 in New York City N.Y.
- Living CHAMBERS
- Living CHAMBERS
Ida DAILIES b: ABT 1903