Chambers, 1948

Whittaker Chambers’ Testimony Following Pelovitz’s Appearance

December 10, 1948

JAY DAVID WHITTAKER CHAMBERS recalled, testified as follows:

Q. Mr. Chambers, previously you have been sworn?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. When you walked in the grand jury room, you observed the witness who was seated in that chair, did you?

A. I did.

Q. Did you see him this morning also outside here?

A. I did.

Q. Did you recognize him?

A. To the best of my knowledge, he is Felix.

Q. Is he the chap to whom you referred when you were telling us that you contacted Felix and delivered to him documents for reproduction?

A. I believe he is.

Q. Did Felix ever actually do the reproducing, do you know?

A. The photographing?

Q. Yes.

A. Yes.

Q. He actually did it.

A. He actually did it.

Q. Is that from information that was given to you or did you know that?

A. I know it.

Q. By seeing it?

A. No, I do not know that I ever saw Felix at work. But my understanding was that he was the man who photographed the documents.

Q. Where did you say you used to meet Felix?

A. I used to meet Felix in Washington frequently near the Union Station, and in Baltimore.

Q. Any special spot in Baltimore?

A. The only one that comes to my mind is downtown, Bickford’s Restaurant.

Q. Have you met him there more than once?

A. I believe I have.

Q. And that would be in what years?

A. 1937 and ’38, I believe.

Q. Was he out of Baltimore for about a year to your knowledge, or nine months of the year?

A. Of one of those years?

Q. Yes.

A. I don’t recall such an absence.

Q. Between, roughly, between the end of 1936 and the end of 1937, up to about December 1937, this witness says that he was employed in New York, and he lived up in New York and he had a job in a theater in New York.

A. Until the end of 1937?

Q. He says from the fall of 1936 to about December of 1937. Do you recall his having been away?

A. He was sent to Baltimore from New York, and it was my impression that he arrived there rather early in 1937, but that’s my recollection; he might have come later.

Q. His father was in the printing business in Baltimore, wasn’t he?

A. Not to my knowledge.

Q. Wasn’t this chap employed in the printing business with his father?

A. No; I understood he was working in some electrical line.

Q. Employed by an electrical house in Baltimore?

A. Yes.

Q. From what source do you understand that Felix actually did the taking of the pictures?

A. Because I gave him the documents for that purpose.

Q. And then he would go away and you would go away?

A. That is right.

Q. Then you would meet again the same night?

A. That is right.

Q. Generally at the same place?

A. Not necessarily.

Q. However, at an agreed place?

A. At an agreed place.

Q. And in a period of around an hour or two hours or so?

A. In a period of something like three hours, probably, two or three hours.

Q. In Washington, you used to meet him generally in the vicinity of Union Station?

A. That’s my recollection.

Q. In the station itself?

A. No.

Q. He would come over, I recall, from Baltimore?

A. He would either come over, I recall, or drive. He had a car.

Q. Was there any other place in Washington where you usually met him?

A. No. My recollection is that we met as a rule in that area around the station.


Q. Do you know what kind of a car he had?

A. No, I have forgotten.

Q. Did you ever see any equipment that he owned or controlled in any way?

A. I can’t remember whether I was once in his apartment or not. My recollection is that I was not.

Q. All of this with regard to his apartment rather than his place of business?

A. I am speaking about his apartment when I speak of photography.

Q. Do you know where his place of business was?

A. I may have known.

Q. Were you ever there?

A. No, sir.

BY MR. WHEARTY [the U.S. Attorney]:

Q. He says he was in business under the name of Premier Printing Company at 1416 East Baltimore Street. Does that refresh your recollection?

A. Yes. That was the area where I thought he was working.

Q. Did he live in about the same area?

A. No. He lived up there above North Avenue near Koenig Street.

Q. Did he ever live on Callow Avenue, do you know?

A. I think it is probable his house was on Callow, at the intersection with Koenig.

Q. That East Baltimore Street, that sort of rings a bell in your memory?

A. I know he was working downtown somewhere, and I thought below Fayette Street.

Q. I understand the jurors want to adjourn at 4:15. In view of the testimony Mr. Chambers has given to us, I think we ought to spend the remaining five minutes or so with the previous witness.


Q. Was there ever anybody else there when you met him?

A. No.

Q. What was your weight in 1938?

A. My weight?

Q. Yes, in 1938.

A. I would think it was about 170 pounds.

Q. How much is it now?

A. I am much heavier now.

Q. How do you know? Is it 230?

A. I do not think it is quite that bad. I think it is 200.

Q. Is that a terrific physical change?

A. The previous witness has changed, too. I do not think my face would change as great as his seems to me. Physically I have undoubtedly changed.

Q. Was he stouter?

A. I wouldn’t say he was stouter. He was stocky.

BY MR. WHEARTY [the U.S. Attorney]:

Q. Did he wear glasses at the time you were dealing with him?

A. I do not remember the glasses.

JUROR: Did you ever address him as Felix?

THE WITNESS: Yes, always.

JUROR: You did?


Q. But you knew his right name?

A. If I did I had forgotten it. But I do not think I did. I am not sure.

Q. What did he know you as?

A. Carl.


Q. He answered to the name of Felix when you spoke to him?

Q. Coming back to your personal appearance – this might sound funny but it is serious – how many chins did you have in 1938?

A. I had one.

Q. I am serious. It would give your face an entirely different contour. Did you know a man in Baltimore by the name of Sam Perry?

A. No.

Q. Are you surprised to hear he was in the printing business?

A. Yes.

Q. You are sure you heard of him in the electrical business?

A. That was my distinct recollection.

Q. Did you ever see any definite evidence of the fact that he was in that or any other line of business?

A. No, I had no connection with his work.

Q. And what is that recollection based on, that he was in the electrical business?

A. What he told me.

Q. What he told you – electrical?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know of anybody that also knows he was in the electrical business?

A. No, I do not.

Q. Where was he supposed to take these documents for printing? What was your impression as to the location?

A. To his apartment.

Q. From Washington, where would he take them?

A. He would take them to Baltimore.

Q. And then you would meet him again the same night and he would come back to Washington?

A. I would more likely meet him in Baltimore.


Q. How would you get to Baltimore?


Q. When you saw the witness you said that you disbelieved it was Felix. Could it have been a case of mistaken identity?

A. There is an outside possibility.

Q. Outside possibility?

A. Yes. But from his photographs and from looking at him I’m reasonably sure that it’s Felix.

MR. WHEARTY: Could you tell better if he took his glasses off?

THE WITNESS: It might help.

The FOREMAN: I wonder if it would help any if he heard his voice.

The WITNESS: That might also help.

MR. WHEARTY: Well, anything like that we would have to do outside the grand jury room, for the reason that we can’t have two witnesses in at the same time.

Q. Well, are you as reasonably sure of this man as you are of Alger Hiss?

A. No.

Q. You are more sure of Alger Hiss?

A. I’m positive of Alger Hiss, and I’m positive about Carpenter.

Q. And here there is an outside chance?

A. Here there is an outside chance.

Q. You were never in his house?

A. I don’t believe so.

MR. WHEARTY: Do you know Baltimore and the streets in the East 1400s, around 1400?

THE WITNESS: Only from passing through it.

MR. WHEARTY: You have no particular familiarity with it?

THE WITNESS: No, I haven’t.

Q. If we told you that he admitted that he knew Carpenter, would that strengthen your recollection at all?

A. It would surprise me a great deal.

Q. I’m not saying that he did, but if he did.

A. No, I would be surprised.

Q. What, at the admission or that –

A. No; that he knew Carpenter. He and Carpenter were separate.

MR. WHEARTY: Was Felix a Party member, to your knowledge?

THE WITNESS: I understood he was.

Q. But weren’t they supposed to be doing the same thing?

A. Yes.

Q. Through you?

A. That’s right.

Q. Why would that surprise you, then?

A. Because they were separated. And I believe the only connecting point –

Q. Didn’t they both live in Baltimore?

A. No. I think Carpenter, most of the time I knew him, was living with Eleanor Nelson in Washington.

Q. In Washington?

A. Yes.

(At this point the Witness left the jury room with Mr. Whearty, and, after a short interval, returned and testified further as follows:)


Q. Mr. Chambers, you have just had an opportunity to see Samuel J. Pelovitz, whom you thought was known to you as Felix. Are you now of the same opinion that he is Felix?

A. No, I am not.

Q. And will you tell the jury, briefly, why?

A. In the first place, he is not stocky enough, his shoulders are not broad enough. In the second place, the bony structure of his face is too long and too strong for Felix. In the third place, he is Jewish, and Felix was not Jewish.


Q. Did Felix tell you he was not Jewish?

A. No. But I knew that Felix is not Jewish.

Q. If it’s a proper question, how did you know?

A. I suppose it is one of those visual things that also –

Q. Well, am I a Catholic?

A. I can’t tell that.

Q. Well, what would you think I am?

A. I would think you are a Protestant.

Q. Well, you are wrong. That’s all I’ll tell you. But I will tell you this, just to confuse you further: I’m Jewish. Now, you wouldn’t take me for a Jew, would you?

A. No.

Q. There is no reason why you shouldn’t; because I look like all the rest of my family, and there are 11 of us.

A. Nevertheless, I am positive that Felix was not Jewish.

Q. You also said the you weren’t sure that Felix wore glasses. And this chap wore glasses.

A. That’s true. Somewhere, I heard that Felix was a Balt of some kind, a Lithuanian or a Lett; and I am positive that Felix was not Jewish.


Q. Are you Jewish, Mr. Chambers?

A. No.


Q. I’m not doing this to embarrass you.

A. I understand. This is a very important thing.

Q. But environment has changed our features, our manners and our habits.

A. Yes. (to Mr. Whearty) Well, you will recall that I asked Mr. Pelovitz if he was Jewish before –

MR. WHEARTY: Yes, he asked him first, and Mr. Chambers – you begged his pardon, and you asked him if he was Jewish, and Mr. Pelovitz said yes. So that’s the way that was brought out.

JUROR: I’m not questioning the procedure. I just want Mr. Chambers to go away remembering that I’m a Jew; that’s the point.

THE WITNESS: Well, my wife is Jewish.

JUROR: And that he guessed wrong, I mean.

MR. WHEARTY: Well, that’s all I guess we have.


FBI agents would, after this, show Chambers photographs of Felix Inslerman, and Chambers would then assert he was the “Felix” in question. With the defense unaware of his misidentification of Samuel Pelovitz, Chambers testified at both trials about Inslerman’s role in what Chambers said were his Communist underground activities.