Willert’s Affidavit

Publisher Paul Willert’s supporting affidavit, dated March 14, 1952, that was submitted with the 1952 Motion for a New Trial in the Hiss case.

Supporting Affidavit of Paul Willert

PAUL WILLERT, being duly sworn, deposes and says:

1. I live at 14 Halsey Street, London, S.W.3., and am a business executive. I am a British subject by birth and was educated at Eton and later at Balliol College, Oxford, where I took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1930. Thereafter I was employed in publishing and journalism in Germany and later in England. In the year 1936, I went to New York as Vice-President and Manager of the Oxford University Press. I stayed in the United States of America until July 1939, when I returned to England where, after the declaration of war, I was employed by the British Government on war service in France. In January 1941, I joined the Royal Air Force with which I served until 1946, when I was demobilised with the rank of Group-Captain, Air Attaché, Paris.

2. I first met the gentleman known to me as David Chambers when he came to me as a possible translator of Martin Gumpert’s book, Dunant: the Red Cross. He was strongly anti-communist and, in fact, described himself as a victim of communist persecution. According to the best of my recollection and belief, that first meeting occurred at the end of 1937 or at the very beginning of 1938. In order to substantiate these statements, I say as follows:

3. (a) Martin Gumpert’s book was completed towards the end of the year 1937, and as the author neared the completion of his work, parts of the manuscript were handed to Mrs. Rita Reil for translation. Her translation proved unsatisfactory. Accordingly, I asked the then-editor of the Oxford University Press, Philip Vaudrin, for another translator, and he brought Chambers to me. I understood that Vaudrin had known Chambers in the past and met him again shortly before.

4. After my first meeting with Chambers, I saw him on several occasions, both in my office and at my house. I remember that, on one or two occasions, I took him out for lunch or for a drink. I was impressed by his knowledge, his gift of languages and intelligence. I was also sorry for him because he was so clearly near a nervous breakdown and out of luck. On the occasions of his visits to my office, I mainly discussed his translation with him, or handed him parts of the manuscript for translation. In the course of these discussions, Chambers expressed violent anti-communist views and explained to me that he was in fear of his life as he was being hunted by the G.P.U. He gave me the impression of being hysterical and suffering from persecution mania. I remember that this topic was raised on what was one of his first visits to my office. I then happened to have a manuscript on my table, which Chambers saw and which he said was written by an author who adhered to communism, which he (Chambers) stated he abhorred. During my talks with Chambers, it became clear to me that he was very familiar with communist thought and activities in Europe and he talked about communist leaders in Europe, particularly in Germany, Holland, France and Belgium, in a manner which left no doubt in my mind that he was personally acquainted with them and had in fact been in Europe in recent years.

5. I have been shown copies of the Oxford University Press correspondence attached to the motion for a new trial in the Hiss case, and observe from these papers that on the 18th March 1938, the Oxford University Press sent a parcel containing parts of the manuscript to Chambers at Baltimore, that on the 23rd March 1938, I wrote to the Oxford University Press in London: “I am sending you a set of galleys,” and that the translation was completed towards the end of May 1938. From this I can say that Chambers must have been given the translation a considerable time before the 18th March 1938. If the whole of the manuscript had been sent to Baltimore that day, I could not possibly have expected Chambers to complete the translation by May. Moreover, I would not have sent the whole manuscript to Chambers without first receiving the test translations. Since I remember giving part of the manuscript to Chambers in my office, the parcel dispatched on the 18th March 1938 must have contained a subsequent, and probably the last, installment. These facts support my general recollection to the effect that my first meeting with Chambers must have occurred at the time mentioned in paragraph 2 hereof.

6. The correspondence referred to above also enables me to say (and this is in accordance with my own recollection) that after the 18th March 1938, I was unable to reach Chambers for about six weeks. Since I do not remember having seen him at any time after the receipt by the Oxford University Press of the completed translation, I am sure that all personal discussions with him which I have described in paragraph 4 hereof, took place before the 18th March 1938 and that it was well before that date that he told me that he was in hiding from the G.P.U. Up to the time of Chambers’ disappearance I thought, as I have stated above, that he was under a delusion when he talked about communist persecution, but as a result of his strange disappearance, I was obliged to take his explanations seriously.


Sworn to before me this 14th

day of March 1952 at 10, Norfolk Street,

Strand, London, England.



Notary Public, London.