Adolf Berle’s Notes on his Meeting with Whittaker Chambers
A.A. Berle met with Whittaker Chambers (Isaac Don Levine also in attendance) on the evening of September 2, 1939. "Berle did not retire immediately. Instead he transcribed his handwritten notes and memories of the conversation on an office typewriter; he titled the four-page memo ‘Underground Espionage Agent.’ Chambers dropped Levine at his hotel and drove back to Westminster, while Levine -- still highly agitated after listening for the first time to Chambers's elaborate recital of his underground work and contacts, -- jotted down on his hotel stationary the names he remembered having been mentioned."
Berle's notes became a government exhibit at Hiss's second trial and a copy can be found in Volume VI of the transcript, attached to p. 3325. Transcriptions can be found in Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments.
Transcription of Berle’s Notes
LONDON Underground Espionage Agent
(1) Dr. Philip Rosenbliett--Formerly of (41st St. B’way, NE).
Dr. Greenberg--MD (West 70th NY)
American leader of British Underground C.
Head in America Mack Moren (alias Philipovitch--allegedly Yugoslav)--real name--?
Rosenbliett--in U. S.
connected with Dr. Isador Miller--Chemist’s Club--41st
St Chemist, Explosive Arsenal, Picatinny, N.J.; was
“front” behind Mack Moren existed--in Miller’s employ
Knew Pressman--his alias was “Cole Philips”--
Introduced him to Mack Moren, buying arms for Spanish (Loyalist) Gov’t.--
Pressman--as counsel--helped Moren--Made a flight to
Mexico with him; forced down at Brownsville, Tex. in
late ‘36 or early ‘37--probably fall of ‘36.
Underground organized by the late Harold Ware; Pressman was in his group--(1932-3??)
Pressman then in the A.A.A.--
Nathan Witt--Secretary of the NLRB--head of the underground group after Harold Ware--
John Abt--followed Witt in that group--Tax Div’n --
Dep’t of Justice & now in CIO (H. Ware’s widow --
Jessica Smith Ed. Soviet Russia).
Mr. Abt--Sister: Marion Bacharach--Secretary--Communist from Minnesota.
(Jessica Smith: With Reuters in 1926--friend of Louis
Meeting place: John Abt’s house--15th St.
Charles Krivitsky--alias Charles Kramer--(CIO) worked
in La Follette Committee--Physicist.
Vincent Reno--Now at Aberdeen Proving Grounds--Computer--Math. Assist. to Col Zornig
(Aerial bomb-sight Detectors). Formerly CP organizer under alias “Lance Clark.”
Philip Reno--in Social Security (??)--Was head of Underground
Trade Union Group Political leader.
Elinor Nelson, treasurer of Fed. Employees’ Union--(Fed.
Workers’ Union, CIO--headed by Jake Baker)
Reno connected with Baltimore Party organizer--Benjamin (Bunday) Friedman alias Field --
then California--then Russia--now organizer for Baltimore & Washington of
Above-Ground Party--Underground connections --
Post--Editorship, Foreign Service Journal. Was in
Alexandria Unit of CP--in “Underground Apparatus”--
(Wadleigh?) Wadley--Trade Agreement Section
Lovell--Trade Agreement Section
Communist Shop Group
Elinor Nelson--Laurence Duggan--Julian Wadleigh--
West European Div’n -- Field--still in --
(Levine says he is out went to I.E.O.
Then in committee for Repatriation
His leader was Hedda Gompertz
Laughlin Currie: Was a “Fellow Traveler”--helped various
Communists--never went the whole way.
Philip Reno--used to be
Schlomer Adler (Sol Adler?)
Sends weekly report to C.P. (Gen. Counsel’s Office)
Frank Coe--Now teacher at McGill.
There are two: brother--One of them in CP’s “Foreign
Known from Peters--formerly in Bela Kun
Govt. Agricultural Commissariet--called Gandosz (?)
Then to Russia--then here, in Business Office of Communist paper
“Uj Elori”--then, after 1929--head of CP Underground,
lived in Hamilton Ap’ts., Woodside, L.I. --
under alias “Silver”--& lectured in Communist camps--
Friend: “Blake” of “Freiheit”--real name--Wiener --
American: Polish Jew.--
Peters was responsible for Washington Sector
Went to Moscow--where is he now?--
Wife--a Comintern courier --
West Coast--Head: “The Old Man”--Volkov is his real
name--daughter a Comintern courier. He knows the West
Coast underground--Residence: San Francisco or Oakland --
Alexander Trachtenberg--Politburo--member of the Exec. Committee
Head of GPU in U. S.
Works with Peters --
Plans for two Super-battleships --
secured in 1937--who gave --
Karp--brother-in-law of Molotov--working with Scott
Ferris, got this released --
Now: Naval Architect working on it, why??
Field was original contact
He introduced Duggan to Gompertz (Hedda)
Duggan’s relationship was casual--
Shall excuse?--Where is Hedda Gompertz?--
Duggan & Field supposed to have been both members of party.--
Member of C.P. with Pressman & Witt --
Labor Dep’t--Asst. to Frances Perkins --
Party wanted him there--to send him as arbitrator in
Bridges trial --
Brought along by brother--
Ass’t. to Sayre--CP--1937
Member of the underground Com.--Active
Baltimore boys --
Wife--Priscilla Hiss Socialist --
Early days of New Deal
Note--When Loy Henderson interviewed Mrs. Rubens his report
immediately went back to Moscow. Who sent it? Such came
Isaac Don Levine’s Notes of the Meeting
After the meeting Levine also made a list, a brief one: “Duggan, Hiss, Alger Hiss, Field, Wadley... Vinc. Reno (Lance Clarke), Phil. Reno (Security), Sol Adler ... Nat Witt, Pressman, Treasury--Frank Coe (A. Gross), Mr. White, brother Coe, Marian Bachrach ... John Abt, Jessica Smith, Peters, Lockwood Curry.”
The one major difference between Levine’s list and that of Berle was Levine’s inclusion of Harry Dexter White. In Witness Chambers identified White as part of his espionage apparatus but wrote that he did not remember telling Berle of White and thought he deliberate left out White as well as George Silverman because he hoped he had convinced both to break with the Communist underground.
Corroboration of Chambers’ Statement about Persons Named
in Berle’s Notes of Conversation with Chambers, 1939
In alphabetical order
Abt, John. Stated in his autobiography that he had been a secret Communist and a participant in Harold Ware’s underground group. Identified as assisting Soviet espionage by Elizabeth Bentley, in a deciphered KGB cable (Venona), and in the KGB documents cited in Weinstein and Vassiliev’s Haunted Wood.
Adler, Schlomer (Solomon): Identified as assisting Soviet espionage by Elizabeth Bentley, deciphered KGB cables (Venona), and KGB documents cited in Weinstein and Vassiliev’s The Haunted Wood. In the 1950s Adler emigrated to China and became a Maoist spokesman.
Bacharach, Marion (correctly spelled Bachrach): She was John Abt’s sister, a secret Communist, and secretary to U.S. Representative from Minnesota John Bernard, a Farmer-Labor Party member aligned with the CPUSA (he formally joined the CPUSA later in his life.) Abt in his autobiography wrote that his sister had been recruited into the party by Harold Ware himself. Moscow archival documents show that in 1942 the KGB asked Comintern for background information on Bachrach, possibly as part of a vetting process for recruitment but possibly for other reasons as well.
Coe, Bob: Robert Coe was president of Harold Ware’s Communist-front Farm Research Incorporated, edited its publication, “Facts for Farmers,” wrote for the CPUSA’s Political Affairs under the pseudonym Robert Digby and appeared in the Daily Worker as late as February 1950.
Coe, Frank. Identified as assisting Soviet espionage by Elizabeth Bentley, deciphered KGB cables (Venona), and KGB document cited in The Haunted Wood. Emigrated to the PRC in the 1950s and became a Maoist spokesman.
Currie, Laughlin (correctly spelled Lauchlin): Identified as assisting Soviet espionage by Elizabeth Bentley, deciphered KGB cables (Venona), and KGB documents cited in The Haunted Wood.
Duggan, Laurence. Identified as assisting Soviet espionage defector Hede Massing, by deciphered KGB cables (Venona), and KGB document cited in The Haunted Wood.
Ferris, Scott. Nothing known.
Field, Noel. Identified as assisting Soviet espionage defector Hede Massing, by his own rehabilitation debriefing by Hungarian Communist security police, and KGB document cited in The Haunted Wood.
Friedman, Benjamin (Bunday): Nothing known
Gompertz, Hedda (Hede Massing). Confirmed in her autobiography that she had been a KGB agent who had recruited Noel Field and had contact with Alger Hiss (know to her as a GRU source) and testified to the same at the second Hiss trial. Massing is identified as a KGB agent in deciphered KGB cables (Venona) and KGB documents in The Haunted Wood.
Greenberg: Nothing known.
Henderson, Loy. Henderson was a senior American diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and firmly anti-Communist. Chambers told Berle that Henderson’s secret report to the U.S. Department of State of his interview with Mrs. Rubens (of the Robertson/Rubens case involving Soviet espionage agents’ use of fraudulent American passports) was immediately sent to Moscow after it reached Washington. One of the “Baltimore documents” that Chambers produced in 1948 was a hand-written summary, nearly a complete transcript, of a Henderson cable to the DOS about the Robertson/Rubens case. A handwriting expert for the government testified at the Hiss trial that the writing was in Alger Hiss’s own hand. Handwriting experts for the defense privately confirmed the government’s findings. Berle’s comment at the end of his notes that Chambers had told him that Henderson’s reports on the Robertson/Rubens matters were being swiftly sent to Moscow indicated he realized he was being told of the theft of State Department communications, i.e., espionage. Mrs. Rubens was actually Ruth Birkland, an American Communist married to Arnold Ikal, a KGB officer who used the fake identities and false American passport of Adolph A. Rubens and Donald L. Robinson when operating in the United States.
Hiss, Alger. Documented as assisting Soviet espionage by the “Baltimore” and “Pumpkin Papers,” by the testimony of Hede Massing, by Noel Field’s debriefing by Hungarian Communist security police, by KGB documents quoted and cited in the 1997 edition of Weinstein’s Perjury and Weinstein and Vassiliev’s Haunted Wood, and by a single Venona document.
Hiss, Donald. In addition to his identification by Whittaker Chambers as assisting Chambers’ apparatus, the one deciphered Venona message about Alger Hiss refers to members of his family assisting him. Additionally he is identified in the Anatoly Gorsky KGB memo as having been a Soviet source compromised by Chambers’ defection.
Hiss, Priscilla. Chambers told Berle that Priscilla had been in the Socialist Party in the early 1930s. Priscilla under oath denied ever being a S.P. member. However, August Claessens of S.P. at the Hiss trial produced a S.P. membership form signed by Priscilla as a member of the Morningside Heights S.P. branch, one dominated by Communist sympathizers and headed by Corliss Lamont, a leading Communist Fellow Traveler. Additionally one forensic typewriter examiner for the defense in the Hiss trials concluded that the typed State Department material Chambers had saved from 1948 was not only typed on the Hiss family typewriter but the pattern of typing fitted Priscilla Hiss, a conclusion that matched with Chambers’ assertions.
Karp: This is Sam Carp (Carpowski), head of the Carp Export and Import Co. and brother-in-law of Soviet leader Viacheslav Molotov. The House Special Committee on Un-American Activities questioned Carp in 1939 and his testimony can be found in Vol. 8 of "Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States," 76th Congress, 1st Session. Carp recounts how in the early 1930s he was contracted by Soviet official Arkadii Rozengolts to arrange the construction of two 35,000-ton battleships for the Soviet Navy through American shipyards and companies and was authorized to expend up to $100,000,000 to do so. Actual construction eventually fell through, but a set of plans was produced and later taken to Moscow by a retired officer of US Naval Intelligence.
Krivitsky, Charles (changed his name to Charles Kramer), identified as part of the Ware Group and the Washington C.P. underground in the 1930s by Nathaniel Weyl, Lee Pressman, and Hope Hale Davis and as assisting Soviet espionage in the 1940s by Elizabeth Bentley, deciphered KGB cables (Venona) and the KGB documents cited in The Haunted Wood.
Lovell, of Department of State. Nothing known.
Miller, Isador. Miller was a chemist who worked at the U.S. government explosives arsenal in Picatinny. Interviewed by the FBI, Miller confirmed that he had supplied information on explosives to Philip Rosenbliet’s espionage network. He denied, however, knowing that the information went to the USSR.
Moren, Mack (alias Philipovitch) Nothing additional known.
Nelson, Elinor (correctly spelled Eleanor). Nelson was an open organizer for the CIO’s federal employees union and identified by numerous persons [Herbert Fuchs and Paul Porter (former husband) among others] as a secret Communist Party activist. Julian Wadleigh in the second Hiss trial testified to having been a spy for Chambers’ apparatus and that Eleanor Nelson had originally recruited him.
Peters: J. Peters was, as Chambers said, a former activist in the short-lived Bela Kun Communist regime in Hungary and a CPUSA official in its Hungarian ethnic section. Despite his public denial, CPUSA and Comintern documents at the RGASPI archive in Moscow show that he headed the CPUSA underground apparatus from the early 1930s until Chambers’ defection in 1938. He is identified as assisting Soviet espionage in deciphered KGB cables and in the KGB documents of The Haunted Wood.
Post: Probably Richard Post of the Department of State. Suspected of being a secret Communist but no clear evidence has surfaced.
Pressman, Lee: In 1950 Lee Pressman testified that he had been a secret member of the CPUSA in 1934 and 1935 and, although no longer officially a party member, a firm ideological Communist from 1936 to 1950. He agreed there had been a group in the AAA (the Ware group) that had met with J. Peters of the CPUSA. Although he depicted the group as an study club of government employees who got together to discuss political theory, he admitted that several of its leading figures (himself, Nathan Witt, John Abt, and Charles Kramer) were Communists. Later, he privately admitted to Jerome Frank, a leading AAA official, that the group, too, had been a Communist party enterprise.
Reno, Philip. He did work for the Social Security Board. Herbert Fuchs, a leader of the secret C.P. caucus at the NLRB in the late 1930s, identified Reno as a figure in the committee that coordinated the party work of secret Communists in the U.S. government in the mid-1930s.
Reno, Vincent (aka Franklin Victor Reno). He was, as Chambers told Berle, a mathematicians (statistician) at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Grounds working on advanced military technology. Confronted by the FBI, in 1949 he confessed that he had supplied technical data to Chambers’ espionage apparatus in the mid-1930s. In 1952 he pled guilty to perjury and was imprisoned for submitting deceptive information on his federal employment and security application for employment at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
Rosenbliett, Philip [also spelled Rosenbliet] Isador Miller admitted to the FBI that he furnished information on explosives from the U.S. government arsenal in Picatinny, NJ, to Philip Rosenbliet’s network. Rosenbliet’s nephew, Richard Tourin, wrote in his memoir that his family shared an residence with the Rosenbliets and his father was the photographer for Rosenbliet’s espionage network.
Smith, Jessica. She was, as Chambers told Berle, Harold Ware’s widow and editor of the journal Soviet Russia.
Trachtenberg, Alexander. Trachtenberg was a long-time senior CPUSA officer and had a role in receiving secret CPUSA subsidies from the USSR, but active links to Soviet espionage that Chambers asserted are not corroborated.
Volkov: This is Isaac Folkoff, senior member of the California C.P. and West Coast liaison between the KGB and the CPUSA. His role in Soviet espionage is documented by deciphered KGB cables (Venona) and the testimony of William Crane, California Communist and photographer for Chambers’ espionage apparatus.
Wadleigh, Julian. An official of the foreign trade agreements section of the Department of State, he testified in 1949 that he had furnished Department of State information to Chambers’ espionage apparatus.
Ware Group: While many Hiss defenders long denied that any such group ever existed, its existence was attested to by Lee Pressman, Nathaniel Weyl, Hope Hale Davis, John Abt, and others.
White, Harry Dexter. In Levine’s list but not Berle’s. Chambers identified White as part of his espionage apparatus and the espionage produce he save from 1938 and produced in 1948 included several pages in White’s handwriting. White’s cooperation with Soviet intelligence is also confirmed by Elizabeth Bentley, deciphered KGB cables (Venona, and the KGB documents cited in The Haunted Wood.
Wiener: William Weiner, long-time CPUSA official, was convicted of passport fraud and was vice-president of World Tourists, Inc., whose chief, Jacob Golos, was convicted of being a unregistered agent of a foreign power (USSR) and was the CPUSA’s liaison with Soviet espionage. Weiner as the CPUSA’s long-time financial manager, he also had a role in receiving secret subsidies from the USSR. A direct personal role in Soviet espionage, however, is not corroborated.
Witt, Nathan. That Witt was a secret member of the CPUSA and of the Ware Group was attested to by Lee Pressman, Herbert Fuchs, Hope Hale Davis, Joseph Lash and others.
Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (New York: Random House, 1997), 292.
Whittaker Chambers, Witness (New York: Random House, 1952), 466–69; U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments [Hearings] (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1953), part 6, 329–30.
Weinstein, Perjury , 292–93.
John J. Abt, Advocate and Activist: Memoirs of an American Communist Lawyer, assisted by Michael Myerson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 39–42, 45–46, 178–79; Elizabeth Bentley, “Elizabeth Bentley FBI Deposition, 30 November 19045, FBI File 65–14603” (1945); John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press [Nota Bene], 2000), 340; Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999), 223–24.
Bentley, “Bentley 1945 Deposition.”; Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 240; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 78, 158.
On Bachrach Communist background and her work for Rep. Bernard, a strong ally of the CPUSA, see Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 318–19 and Hope Hale Davis, Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s (South Royalton, Vt.: Steerforth Press, 1994), 69; Abt, Advocate, 40–41.
R. Bruce. Craig, Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 90; John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 345; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 158, 162, 169, 229.
Herbert Romerstein and Stanislav Levchenko, The KGB Against the “Main Enemy”: How the Soviet Intelligence Service Operates Against the United States (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1989), 106–08; Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 345; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 48, 158, 162, 169, 229.
Bentley, “Bentley 1945 Deposition.”; Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 346; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 161–63, 168, 243, 274.
Hede Massing, This Deception. (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1951), 206–11; Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 347; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 10–21, 192–96.
Massing, This Deception.; Mária Schmidt, “Noel Field -- The American Communist at the Center of Stalin’s East European Purge: From the Hungarian Archives,” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (December 2004); Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 4–11, 34–35, 44, 48, 80.
Massing, This Deception.; Massing is in the deciphered Venona traffic under the covername Redhead. Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 362–63, 377; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 4–10, 13, 35, 44, 48, 249–51, 298.
Weinstein, Perjury ; Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 167–73; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 12,38–49, 165, 269; Schmidt, “Noel Field -- The American Communist at the Center of Stalin’s East European Purge: From the Hungarian Archives.”
Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 167–73; Anatoly Gorsky, “Failures in the U.S.A. (1938–1948),” memo, December 1948: <http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page48.html> in Alexander Vassiliev’s Notes from the KGB Archive.
Weinstein, Perjury .
Davis, Great Day, 68–69; Nathaniel Weyl, Encounters With Communism (Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris, 2004); Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 354–55; Weinstein, Perjury , 96, 106, 156, 185–85, 224–25, 231–35; Earl Latham, The Communist Controversy in Washington: From the New Deal to McCarthy. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966), 107.
Katherine A.S. Sibley, Red Spies in America: Stolen Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 33.
Latham, Controversy, 127–28; Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America’s Traitors (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Pub., 2000), 131.
Klehr, Haynes, and Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism, 71–83, 91–97, 106–10, 124; Peters is in Venona under the cryptonym Storm, Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 367, 378–79; Weinstein, Perjury , 8, 38–39, 225, 262, 302.
Gilbert J. Gall, Pursuing Justice: Lee Pressman, the New Deal, and the CIO (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999); Latham, Controversy, 107–09; Joseph P. Lash, Dealers and Dreamers: A New Look at the New Deal (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 218, 326, 434–37.
Latham, Controversy, 127–28.
Weinstein, Perjury , 57, 137, 206, 209–11, 214, 249, 293, 342, 362n63.
Richard H. Tourin, Memoirs and Adventures (New York, NY: Privately published, 2003); Sibley, Red Spies, 33, 80, 261n116,262n122.
Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 348; Weinstein, Perjury , 57, 138.
Weinstein, Perjury , 57, 103–03, 137, 204–06, 225, 228, 420.
Haynes and Klehr, Venona , 368; Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haunted Wood, 90, 157–58, 163–68; Craig, Treasonable Doubt.
Latham, Controversy, 107–10; Gall, Pursing Justice; Davis, Great Day, 138, 252; Lash, Dealers and Dreamers, 35–40.