Witness

Witness cover

Witness

Bennet Cerf of Random House pub

The Saturday Evening Post ran long excerpts from the memoirs of Whittaker Chambers as “I Was the Witness” weekly for 10 weeks from February 9 through April 12, 1952. (The magazine had serialized the memoirs of Walter Krivitsky in 1939.) Then, Random House published the book Witness in May 1952.

Known to many was the fact that Random House and the Saturday Evening Post paid well for publishing rights — well known because Hiss supporters published figures widely, in an effort to pigeonhole Chambers with paid FBI informants. At this time, the FBI was known to pay informants like Elizabeth Bentley, Louis Budenz, and Harvey Matusow before HUAC and subsequent, similar committees (a tactic also used against crime syndicates, thus adding weight to the accusation).

Unknown to all but family and friends was the fact that most of this money went to pay first for legal defense during the Hiss trials and leftovers for mortgage, etc. In fact, Chambers was nearly unable to have his writings published after leaving TIME in December 1948. Exceptions were occasional articles for Life and rival Look magazines, as well as an 21-month stint as a senior editor of sporadic articles to the nascent National Review.

 

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