I went to high school with the grandchildren of Whittaker Chambers. At the time, I only knew the Chambers boys to be brilliant students and pleasant young gentlemen. It was only later, after I had read Witness and the Tanenhaus biography, that I was discussing Whittaker Chambers with another childhood friend, who said to me: "Well, you know, you went to school with his grandchildren." It was quite a revelation. Recently, courtesy of Facebook, I reconnected with former classmate David Chambers. David has started to write about his grandfather, setting the record straight on some misconceptions. Here is David Chambers' review of the recent Andrew Meier's book The Lost Spy. To quote:
The Lost Spy retraces the careers of Isaiah ("Cy") Oggins and wife Nerma Berman Oggins, two Americans who joined the Soviet underground in 1926, soon stationed in Europe and the Far East. In 1938, the Soviet government asked Cy Oggins to "remain" in Moscow. In February 1939, they arrested, sentenced, and sent him to the Norilsk gulag. When his sentence ended, the Soviets decided to liquidate him, rather than send him back to an America amidst HUAC investigations that might take interest in him. Wife Nerma had taken their young son home to the States and remained silent on the subject for the rest of her life (like many wives of liquidated spies). The Ogginses had all but disappeared from history -- until former TIME correspondent Andrew Meier picked up their trail....David Chambers also has some interesting comments on an interview the the author of The Lost Spy:
Importantly, The Lost Spy demonstrates that Whittaker Chambers's fears of liquidation were all too real -- Cy Oggins gruesome death is proof. Poisonings and other assassinations emanating from Russia continue to the present day: President Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev (2004), ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in London (2006), American intelligence expert Paul Joyal in Adelphi, MD (2008). Former KGB spy Oleg Gordievsky warned of continued poisonings -- only to be poisoned himself, along with, it seems, British intelligence chief Alex Allan.
During Power Line's interview on September 21, 2008, The Lost Spy author Andrew Meier made an inaccurate assertion:[Whittaker] Chambers always said that he had been sent to Europe, and it's a big debate among sort of scholars of the Hiss Case. It's never been proven that he did go overseas.Allow me to attempt to set the matter straight to the best of my knowledge.
Whittaker Chambers (my grandfather) claimed quite the opposite, that he had never gone overseas for the Soviets: others claimed he did.
The issue came up over postcards he had had sent to art historian (and lifelong friend) Meyer Schapiro and artist (and New Masses colleague) Jacob Burck -- as a joke -- as if he too had gone to Moscow as so many Americans were, publicly, in the 1930s. People very close to them had gone: Langston Hughes, with whom my grandfather -- and Jacob Burck -- had planned a "Suitcase Theater," had traveled to the Soviet Union the year before, in 1932 (and coincidentally toured the USSR with Arthur Koestler).
Allen Weinstein (Perjury, pp. 113-114) and Sam Tanenhaus (Whittaker Chambers, pp. 88) among others take these postcards seriously. Weinstein takes them so seriously that he attempts to expand upon my grandfather's supposed but in fact spurious visit to Moscow as part of otherwise unsubstantiated training he received there. More judiciously, Tanenhaus merely mentions the postcards and the supposed visit without elaboration.
More of David's reviews and collected articles about his grandfather, HERE.