Chambers and Felix

On December 7, 1948, Whittaker Chambers told the grand jury for the first time about a photographer named “Felix” who photographed government documents passed along by his alleged Communist confederates. Chambers would later testify that he met Felix weekly for more than six months in 1937 and 1938. On this day in 1948, Chambers described how the procedure was carried out.

WC3 pelid

FBI Memo Describing Chambers’ Misidentification of “Felix” (December 1948)

Who was “Felix”? The F.B.I. wanted to know. The next day, agents showed Chambers a picture of a man they thought could be “Felix.” His name was Samuel Pelovitz. (The F.B.I. had seen Pelovitz’s name used as a reference by a man, David Carpenter, who Chambers said was one of his Communist Party associates.) Chambers identified Pelovitz as his former photographer, telling an F.B.I. agent that “there seemed to be no doubt that PELOVITZ and FELIX are identical.”

On December 10, Pelovitz appeared before the grand jury and told them that he had never seen Chambers before that very morning. We offer here both excerpts from Pelovitz’s testimony that morning and his complete testimony. Chambers was then brought into the grand jury room, and asked to reconsider his identification. Chambers at this point said that there was only an “outside possibility” that Pelovitz was not Felix, and then left the room with one of the prosecutors and returned to say that Pelovitz was “not stocky enough” to have been Felix.

Chambers was later shown photographs of Felix Inslerman and identified him as the “Felix” he had worked with. He testified to this effect at both Hiss case trials – but because of the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings, the defense was never aware of his misidentification of Samuel Pelovitz.

Inslerman’s own testimony wasn’t heard until 1954, when he appeared before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Committee on Government Operations and was questioned by committee counsel Roy M. Cohn. Several significant aspects of his story, not told in public until six years after Hiss’s conviction, contradicted Chambers’ sworn trial testimony. We present here both annotated excerpts of what Inslerman told the McCarthy committee and a full transcript, also annotated.