Dinner Party at the Fields’ II: Noel Field’s Account, comments by Massing and others (1948-1954)

The following timeline is a continuation of the compilation of what different sources have said about the story known in Alger Hiss case history as “the dinner party at the Fields” – shorthand for a much-contested story about a meeting between Alger Hiss and Hede Gumperz Massing that allegedly took place in the Washington, D.C. apartment of Noel and Herta Field sometime in the mid-1930s. The story was told variously by four different sources — each of whom told it to different “audiences” at different times: Hede Massing herself; Whittaker Chambers, Hiss’s accuser; Noel Field, an American with a convoluted history of Communist and Soviet espionage associations who spent many years in solitary confinement in Communist Hungary; and Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB officer and journalist who had access to Soviet intelligence files in the mid-1990s.

Here, we will examine what Noel Field had to say between 1948 and 1954 about both Hede Massing and Alger Hiss – and what they said about him. Field was arrested in Prague in May 1949 and imprisoned until November 1954 in Budapest, where he underwent intensive interrogations on suspicion of being an American spy.

At the end of the day, it is up to the reader to decide what part of the record, if any, is true.

See also Dinner Party” at the Fields’ I: Whittaker Chambers’s and Hede Massing’s Accounts (1939-1948)

Dinner Party” at the Fields’ III: Skeletons in the Closet (1990s and 2009)

Sept. 9, 1948, Warsaw:

In Warsaw, Noel Field writes a letter to Jacub Berman (a Polish high official responsible for state security), attaching a “brief history” of his party activities. Neither document makes any mention of Alger Hiss. 1

October 20, 1948, Prague:

Noel Field writes to Leo Bauer about a report he read in the October 16, 1948 Herald Tribune (Paris edition):

“The House Un-American Activities Committee released a 1.300 page transcript of testimony alleging that two Communist underground networks operated in the United States State Department prior to the war.

“The disclosure was made at a secret session … on August 27 by Whittaker Chambers, … He asserted one Communist underground was headed by Alger Hiss and said the other was Noel Field, … as its head.

“Mr. Chambers testified that the two rings worked independently of each other and said Mr. Hiss found [out] about Mr. Field’s Communist affiliations only by accident.

“Mr. Hiss has filed a libel suit against Mr. Chambers for statements repeated outside the Committee hearing.” 2

December 7, 1948, the Massings’ farm, Pennsylvania:

FBI agents interview Hede Massing about Julian Wadleigh[LINK to Wadleigh] when she volunteers “to furnish some additional information concerning Alger Hiss,” which she had not “previously furnished” since, as she says, “her mind was not exactly clear concerning the matter. She felt she now could reconstruct the events with a fair degree of accuracy.”

“After about a year, and possibly in the winter of 1935-1936, NOEL FIELD told HEDE that someone else was also recruiting him to do the same work and he did not know just what to do.  HEDE told NOEL that she would like to meet this person who was trying to recruit him, so they could have it out.  FIELD said he would arrange to have HEDE meet the person.

According to HEDE, approximately a week later, FIELD had a dinner party at his apartment in Washington. HEDE recalls that HERTA FIELD, NOEL’S wife, was present, along with NOEL, herself and ALGER HISS.  She cannot recall whether or not anyone else was present, possibly a few others.  HISS’ wife was not present.

NOEL FIELD told HEDE that HISS was the person who was trying to recruit him. He told her this either before or on the night of the dinner.  HEDE stated that she was impressed by HISS’ good looks, his charm, and his intelligence, and they got along very well.  Immediately after the dinner and at the first moment when HEDE and ALGER HISS could get together, they had a conversation, which, to the best of HEDE’S recollection, is as follows:

ALGER HISS:        “Well, you are the famous girl who is meddling in my affairs.”

HEDE MASSING:  “And you are the man who is meddling in my affairs.”

ALGER HISS:        “What is your apparatus.”

HEDE MASSING:  “I shouldn’t ask that question of you. You shouldn’t ask it of


(They both laughed at this)

ALGER HISS:       “Well, we’ll fight it out to see who gets NOEL.

HEDE MASSING: “I’ll beat you in this game because I’m a woman.”

After this either HEDE or ALGER said:

“What difference does it make who gets NOEL. We’re both working for the same boss.”

HEDE cannot recall whether she made this statement or whether ALGER made it.  The statement meant to HEDE that they were both working for the same boss, the Communist international movement.  HEDE stated that there was no question in her mind that HISS was working for some branch of Soviet Intelligence or for the Comintern and was trying to recruit FIELD to work with him, and further this branch was in competition with her group headed by “BORIS”. HEDE stated that throughout the evening, she got along very well with ALGER HISS. They seemed to agree on everything.  After the meeting, HEDE returned to New York and reported the results of her meeting with ALGER HISS to her superior, BORIS. BORIS was delighted and slapped HEDE on the back and said, “Good girl”.

He instructed her not to see HISS in the future.  HEDE stated that she never saw ALGER HISS either before or after this one dinner party at NOEL FIELD’S. 3

December 8, 1948, New York, Hede Massing’s testimony to the grand jury in the Hiss case:

Hede Massing tells the grand jury in New York essentially the same story [emphasis added].

… Now, did you have an occasion to meet an individual known as Alger Hiss?

A   Yes, I have met him.

Q   When did you meet Alger Hiss?

A   I met Alger Hiss only once. I believe that I met him, and I am not certain, and that is one of the reasons why I didn’t come forward before - - it might have been the winter of 1934-1935, and it might have been the winter of 1935-1936.   I am not certain of that, but it was just one meeting.

A   And then was … then was this dinner arranged between Alger Hiss and the Fields. And one of the reasons why I  haven’t spoken about this before is that it was one of the haziest evenings in my … [she meant to say “life” but was sidetracked] – Im trying to recollect — I don’t even know whether there were any other people invited. I sometimes see the evening as a dinner party at the Fields with other people around, and I sometimes see the evening as a bouffe supper.  I do recall having spoken to Alger alone in the room to the right of the hall at Noel Field’s apartment and I just don’t recall whether there were other people or not. It might have been that it was just we four.  I know that Mrs. Hiss was supposed to come that evening and she did not. That I know.

Q  You mentioned, Mrs. Massing, that you haven’t talked about this before. When did you first talk about this with the FBI, this Hiss Incident?

A   Yesterday.

Q   Yesterday?

A   Yes. And I want to say right here why I didn’t.  There are three reasons for it. One is that — the most essential one is a technical one that held me back. First of all, I had forgotten it for years. And when I first saw the picture of Alger Hiss at the San Francisco conference I thought, “Oh, this is the fellow I met at Field’s.” And then I felt how wonderful that he must have left the service, …

… When Alger Hiss came into this terrific thing now with Chambers, of course I thought about it all the time and I have seen, mean­while, Bill McCarthy, who has almost become a friend of mine, in the FBI service, several times, and there was one evening before I was called to the Un-American Activities Committee where I met Bill McCarthy and was on the verge of telling him about that. This leads to the third reason why I hesitated to speak about it. My husband at present, Paul Massing, knows nothing about my knowing Alger Hiss and I felt that it was very hard for Paul Massing to establish himself in this country. He is not an American citizen yet. … and I just don’t want to jeopardize his chances. … And also I thought, since I don’t know it clearly, since it is so vague, I cannot help very much. … And so I didn’t talk about it. I wanted to speak to Bill McCarthy the evening before I went to the Un-American Activities Committee [when?] Paul Massing arrived and I didn’t get the chance. At the Committee I was not asked. Paul Massing was asked whether he knew Нiss, and he doesn’t and he said no. Would I have been asked, I certainly would have had to speak about it, because I was determined to say what I knew under oath. But I wasn’t asked.

Q When were you before the Committee, what date?

A  There you got me. Last month. But I don’t know when.

q Would you say it was in November, the middle of November?

A   It might have been the end of September.

MR. WHEARTY:    In Washington or New York?

THE WITNESS;    Washington.

[For an explanation of why the story did not come out during the Thomas Committee hearing on September 22, 1948 – see the entry for that date in “Dinner Party” at the Fields’ I.]

A  … I do remember distinctly having had a lot to drink, … I had many drinks there, too. And I had a conversation with Mr. Hiss that ran, аs I remember it, like this — whether it was I or he who said it first “Well, you are meddling in my affairs,” whether it was I or he who said, “Well, no; you are meddling in my affairs.” Whether it was he who said or I who said — and this is the vagueness — “But we are working for the same boss, anyway.” That is the gist of the conversation. I mean, there were many other things, you know, of course, but this is the significant sentence. And it would be much more significant would I know who said it. But it might be that he said it, and it might be that I said it.  And this is one of the reasons. You see, this is all I have and it didn’t seem enough to comment and say yes, I know that Alger Hiss did this and this and that and that. This is the sentence I think was said either by him or by me.

Q   Was there any prior conversation with the Fields, saying you wanted to meet Alger Hiss?

A   Yes. When Noel said that he had this very close friend of his whom he thought whom he considers a man of high ethics and moral standards, a man of Marxian — a trained Marxian, an educated Marxian, a man who is versed in politics, a man whom he admired very greatly, … and he said, “You know, he is trying to … win me as you do, and I am tending to be with him. I know him so much longer than you.” And I said, “Well, why won’t you let me meet this man?”  This was the previous conversation, …

A … As a matter of fact, it was sprung on me very suddenly, and I remember exactly when it was. Not when, not the date, but the occasion, the situation, I was on a boat with the Fields on the river this is in Washington.

Q   The Potomac?

A   Yes.

And I remember that Herta, his wife, went out swimming, and Noel and I had this discussion. And, as a matter of fact, I think … it was something Noel had planned to tell me, obviously, something he wanted to confront me with, … It was an important issue to him; that he had spoken with me … I had never known that Alger Hiss was a friend of Noel’s until then when Noel told me that there is this man whom he regards as such and so, and so forth. …” 4

Noel Field, Hungarian dossier, 1948 – 1951:

The most voluminous part of the corpus of documentation in the Noel Field case is the so-called Noel Field Hungarian dossier, 5 deposited at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security. This collection has very few pre-1954 documentation left after the destruction of records in the aftermath of the Hungarian events of 1956 (reportedly on the instruction of the Hungarian leader Janus Kadar). Most importantly, there is not a single record of Field’s interrogations in Hungary from 1949 until 1954.

There are no references to Alger Hiss in available Noel Field documents from October 24, 1948 to December 1951. (There are 11 such documents published in German translation in Der Fall Noel Field, documents 4-14, pp. 31-112).

June 1949, Geneva, Switzerland:

During the first Hiss perjury trial, a Swiss attorney visited Herta Field in Geneva on behalf of the Hiss defense. Mrs. Field told the attorney that Hiss and Massing had never been in the Fields’ apartment at the same time. Before she could be contacted again by the defense, Herta Field disappeared behind the Iron Curtain.

December 1949, New York, Hiss’ second perjury trial:

Hede Massing testifies at the second Hiss perjury trial that:

In 1935 – “in late summer or early fall” – she had attended a small dinner party at the Fields’ home in Washington. There was a second guest, Alger Hiss. Massing has spoken with him privately. She repeated the conversation for the jury’s benefit. “I said to Mr. Hiss, ‘I understand that you are trying to get Noel field away from my organization into yours,’ and he said, ‘So you are the famous girl that is trying to get Noel field away from me.’ And I said, ‘Yes.” And he said, as far as I remember, ‘Well, we will see who is getting to win,’ at which point I said, ‘Well, Mr. Hiss’ – I did not say ‘Mr. Hiss’ – ‘Well, you realize that you are competing with a woman,’ at which either he or I said, the gist of the sentence was, ‘Whoever is going to win we are working for the same boss.’ 6

Defense witness Henricas Rabinavicius, a former OSS member, testified that he had heard Massing give a somewhat different account of her alleged meeting with Hiss at a dinner party in September, 1949, just prior to the second trial. (The dinner party took place in the home of Eugene Lyons, a journalist, who was feeding suggestions from Richard M. Nixon, among others, to prosecutor Thomas Murphy during the trial.)

According to Rabinavicius, at the party, Massing said she was sent to Washington to contact young men in the State Department but that she “carefully concealed” her affiliation so as not to frighten them away. She said she was trying to recruit Field into an anti-fascist organization but that she had learned he was already a member of an organization with a colleague of his in the State Department, Alger Hiss. He said she made no reference to any comment Hiss may have made about the two of them working for the same boss. 7

1951, United States:

Hede Massing publishes her memoir, This Deception, in which she repeats the same story she told at Hiss’s second perjury trial, with some more flowery detail.

1952, United States:

Whittaker Chambers publishes his memoir, Witness, in which he greatly expands his early version of the association between Noel Field and Alger Hiss. Chambers conspicuously sources part of his knowledge to what he heard from Walter Krivitsky in the late 1930s and to Hede Massing’s 1951 book:

… From my first day in Washington, I had heard the name of Laurence Duggan as a likely underground recruit. I also heard constant rumors about Duggan’s great friend, Noel Field, a Harvard man and a Quaker of good family who was in … the West European Division of the State Department. ….

Hiss began an intensive campaign to recruit Field and Duggan. They reached the point of talking very openly to Noel Field. I was afraid to ask just how openly they were talking, for I might have been tempted to urge caution, and in such delicate negotiations much must be left to the tact of the negotiator, in this case Alger Hiss. …

I was soon to learn just how far the two young State Department men had gone. One night Alger reported to me that Noel Field claimed to be connected with “another apparatus.” “Is it possible?” Alger asked me in surprise. “Can there be another apparatus working in Washington?”

I told him that it was quite possible, that it was probably a parallel apparatus.

I asked Peters what he knew about it. “It is probably the apparatus of Hede Gumperz” [Hede Massing], he said. I had never heard of Hede Gumperz. …. Peters urged me to let Noel Field alone. But Alger’s spirit was up. He was determined to recruit Noel Field.

At the second Hiss trial, Hede Massing testified how Noel Field arranged a supper at his house, where Alger and she could meet and discuss which of them was to enlist him. ….

… It was General Walter Krivitsky who first told me that Noel Field had left the State Department on orders from his apparatus to work for Krivitsky, who was then chief of Soviet Military Intelligence in Western Europe.

During the Hiss Case, Noel Field, his wife, his adoped daughter and his brother all disappeared into Soviet-controlled Europe. From this I infer that they had knowledge about Alger Hiss and others  that made it inadvisable to leave the Fields in any part of Europe or the United States where American officials or subpoenas could reach them.

… Hede Massing has told the facts, in so far as she knows them, in This Deception.  8

December 17, 1951, Budapest, where Noel Field is imprisoned. All the following entries refer to the period during which Field was in prison in Hungary:

Alger Hiss’s name appears in an innocuous-looking footnote, in a reference on the interrogation of Noel and Herta Field. The record of the interrogation itself is unavailable.

[Footnote] 7:  Field befürchtte, da sein Name im Herbst 1948 im Kontext der Alger-Hiss-Affäre von Whittaker Chambers vor dem HUAC genannt wurde, daß man ihn dort ebenso wie seinen Freund Alger Hiss vorladen bzw. Gegen ermitteln würde (vgl. Dok. 49, bes. S. 508f.). 9

August 22, 1952, Budapest:

Alger Hiss’s name is mentioned – again innocuously – in a reference on a Noel Field dossier compiled by Major Szendy for General Kretschmer, Hungarian Interior Ministry, dated Aug. 22, 1952:

… Field confessed …, only now recognizing that he had become a tool for the American intelligence and that he had also handed over other people to the American intelligence. Field emphasized repeatedly, that decades ago, while he was in the USA, he had approached the Communist Party and had cooperated with the Soviet intelligence agencies for a long period of time; he did not know why this connection was cut off. Furthermore, he emphasized that the House Committee on Un-American Activities was investigating him in connection with the case of Alger Hiss. Field stated that he had been trying to clarify his membership in the Communist Party since 1938 (when he travelled to Moscow) and that he was promised, last time in Poland, that this would happen…. 10

March 18-22, 1954:

Noel Field did not mention Hiss in a long memo he wrote on March 18-22, 1954, to the Central Committee of the CPSU, in which he described his “political life” and contacts in great detail. In particular, he wrote:

…I have been a loyal, devoted and active communist for more than 20 years and risked my life for the communist party more than once;

2. I have never been, neither directly nor indirectly, neither officially, nor unofficially, a spy or a spy agent and have never worked for the American intelligence or any other hostile secret service or a promotion job. … 11

June 15, 1954, Budapest, First Interrogation of Noel Field:

Alger Hiss was briefly mentioned by Field in the course of his first interrogation after the investigation in his case was resumed (probably, following Field’s letter to the Central Committee of CPSU, in which he tried to prove that he was innocent of the charges of espionage on behalf of the USA):

… In the year 1934 (as far as I remember) I got in touch with the German communist[s] Paul Massing and Hede Gumpertz who informed me that they were spying for the Soviet Union. I handed over lots of information to them – orally as well as in writing – about the State Department, … 12

This statement contradicts Hede Massing’s testimony to the grand jury in the Hiss case that, while in the United States, Field refused to pass any information and/or documentation from the Department of State, explaining his refusal as follows:

“… there was nothing of interest for you, and even if there was, it would be impossible for me tо get it, and even if I got it, it would be impossible for me to get it out; and anyway, this is the thing I can’t do, particularly since I do not see that this is going to fight fascism in Germany anyway.”    This was Noel Field’s attitude, which he maintained throughout his time in America. 13

To a question about the Massings, Field replied:

… At first, the Massings didn’t give any evidence about me. … during a trip to the USA in 1946, I met Hede Gumpertz, who informed me that she didn’t work for the Soviet Union anymore. Gumpertz was trying to establish contact with me and frankly asked whether I was working for the Soviet Union, which I denied. In response, she told me that so far she hadn’t revealed to the authorities that she had been in contact with me and was not planning to do so. Later on, I discovered from evidence at the trial against Alger Hiss and from confidential letters of my friends that Hede Gumperz and Paul Massing had revealed my name. At this time, one could hardly call me to account because I hadn’t returned to the USA and besides, there couldn’t be proof against me. 14

June 16, 1954, Budapest, Second Interrogation of Noel Field:

During his second interrogation on June 16, 1954, Field was asked about his “political contacts” in Paris and New York, “Eberhard Reiss,” Walter Krivitsky and Hede and Paul Massing; the name Hiss did not appear in the memo on the interrogation (the transcript of the interrogation is missing.) 15

June 23, 1954, Budapest:

Hiss’s name is mentioned in Field’s memo, “Professional Activities,” which he wrote for his Hungarian captors on June 23, 1954. Explaining that his State Department colleague, Laurence Duggan, whom he called his “best and almost the only friend,” “was the only one who knew” about “his intentions,” Field added in brackets: “(later Hiss, too).” 16

In the same memo, Field repeatedly mentioned Hiss in connection with his, Field’s, failed efforts to find himself a job. In the first job search episode, from 1939, Hiss sent a telegram to Field in Geneva about “a job offer as a political consultant for the newly designated Governor of the Philippines” [Francis Sayre]. Field wrote that he had later learned that “the matter came to nothing due to the opposition of a certain circle in the State Department.” (In fact, Field was not the only candidate whom Hiss had suggested for the vacancy.)

In early 1948, while in Europe, Field wrote to Hiss and his brother about his (Field’s) prospects to become an Eastern European “representative or reporter” for the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace. In mid-May 1948, Field received an offer from the newly founded National Guardian magazine – “on the recommendation of Hiss,” as far as he remembered. But after he “read in the press about the campaign of the Committee of Un-American Activities against Hiss,” Field got “scared” that he might be pulled into that investigation and wrote to the National Guardian that for the time being he was unable to work for health reasons. 17

July 6, 1954, Budapest:

In a memo on “The History of my political activities” that Field wrote for his Hungarian captors on July 6, 1954, he  described a story about his “indiscretion” with Hiss. In a subsection on “Illegal work until membership in the party, 1935-1938, Washington and London,” Field wrote [emphasis added]:

… In one case, my discipline broke down which became my fate years later (1948-1949).

We became friends with Alger Hiss, who was an official at one of those New Deal agencies established by Roosevelt, as well as with his wife Priscilla. During our meetings we mutually discovered that we were both communists. Approximately in the summer of 1935, Alger Hiss tried to recruit me for the Soviet service upon which I made an inexcusable indiscretion by answering that he would be late. Of course, I did not tell him anything about the Massings, however, it was terrible enough. I immediately reported that incident to Hede Gumperz. She blamed me intensely for that. She would not know what her superior, whom I by the way never got to know, would say to that. Some time later, she said to me that the damage I had caused was far worse than I could imagine and that due to that mistake the whole work had to be reorganized. From that time on, the Massings’ attitude towards my possible transfer to the League of Nations changed. Until then, of course, they had put pressure on me to keep working at the State Department. From now on their opposition dissolved. …

…   As I came to know from the press in 1948, Alger Hiss had informed his own illegal contact about our conversation. To our misfortune, not only the Massings had become traitors, but also Whittaker Chambers, the contact of Hiss. During the summer of 1948 Chambers was questioned about me in a secret meeting of the Committee on Un-American Affairs; excerpts from those transcripts were published in October 1948 causing a sensation in the press. 18

In the same memo, Field told about another encounter with Hiss, this time in 1939, which, he explained, followed from his earlier “revealing himself” to Hiss:

… For one or two days, we detoured to Washington [1939] above all to see Alger Hiss. From the press I knew that Krivitsky roamed around in Washington and I had to expect him to expose me. Because Hiss in principle already knew about me, I could inform him without further violating the discipline that I was in danger because of a traitor. I reached agreement with him that, in case he heard about anything, he would send me a warning in a covered way. [Field used a German word, “Decknamen,” meaning “pseudonym” or “a cover name.”] However, I never received such a warning. I do not know how much evidence Krivitsky has given against me. 19

Hiss’s name appears next in Field’s account of the letter that he sent to Leo Bauer in mid-September 1948:

… In Prague (app. in mid-September 1948) Leo Bauer, who spent his holiday in the Tatra Mountains, was waiting for me. … At this time, the press reported intensely about the case of Alger Hiss and I informed Leo Bauer that I also feared complications. … 20

Finally, Field mentioned a letter that he received from Hiss in October, 1948, which he described as “an easing letter” from his friend “who, of course, could not write openly”:

… In November [1948] … Since I was equipped with a new passport and nothing new had come up in the USA (moreover, I had gotten an easing letter from Hiss), nothing would be in the way for a temporary return to Geneva. I travelled in the beginning of December (via Paris). …

… A short letter from Hiss (who of course could not write openly) I interpreted in the same way. [Hiss said] Those who forced me to openly accept the fight and even to file a libel suit, were those who knew the least about my political past. … 21

September 1, 1954, Budapest, Herta Field’s memo, “My trip to Germany in 1934”:

Herta Field was also held captive in Communist Hungary from 1949 to 1954, in the same prison house where her husband was being held. She too was interrogated. In the available records of the three interrogations of Herta Field in early August, 1954, Herta was not questioned about her husband’s story of his lack of discretion with Hiss. In one of the memos written for her captors, however, she did provide some background on that episode’s dating confusion. Then, on September 1, 1954, she wrote a memo entitled “My trip to Germany in 1934.”

According to Herta Field’s account, in early October of 1934 she accompanied her husband to London for the Naval Limitation Conference (where he was to serve, first, as secretary of the U.S. delegation and then, starting in November, as technical assistant to the U.S. delegation). According to her, the U.S. delegation arrived in London in early October, 1934. Herta left Noel in London and proceeded to Germany to pay a visit to her family – only to join him sometime in December and then travel to Germany again to be with her family for Christmas. She dated her return to the United States “together with the [U.S.] delegation” “sometime in January 1935.” 22

September 23, 1954, Budapest, Noel Field’s 22nd interrogation:

The name of Alger Hiss appears again in the course of Field’s 22nd interrogation, on September 23, 1954. That interrogation centered around Field’s contacts with Soviet intelligence, beginning with his relationship with Hede and Paul Massing. Field mentioned Alger Hiss in his answer to the 14th question of the interrogation – about Field’s attitude to the Massings’ insistence that he should move from the Department of State to the League of Nations:

Did you approve that, or rather, did you agree with that?

I remember that at first they did not approve my decision to leave the State Department, neither they resolutely opposed it. After that incident with Alger Hiss, they also said that I now had to leave the State Department.

What was most important regarding this incident with Alger Hiss?

As far as I remember, in the beginning of 1934, through a mutual acquaintance, I came to know Alger Hiss, who was then employed at the Department of Agriculture. The person concerned had a left oriented attitude and hence between us an intimate friendship developed. During the fall of 1935, Alger Hiss requested me by occasion to work for the Soviet intelligence. I cannot remember exactly what I responded, in any case I let him know that I had already worked in this field.

So you did reveal to Alger Hiss that you were working for the Soviet intelligence?

Yes, that is true.

Later in the interrogation, Field mentioned Hiss in an answer to a question about his contacts during his visit to the United States in the fall of 1937:

Whom of your old friends and acquaintances did you meet in the USA?

During my stay in the USA, I was in Washington where I went to the Department of State to visit some of my former colleagues. Without any doubt, I also met Alger Hiss, but for sure I cannot remember any details. Neither can I remember exactly the names of the employees, whom I visited at the Department of State.

For what purpose did you travel to Washington, particularly, visited the Department of State?

My reasons were merely personal; I wanted to pay a visit of friendship to my former colleagues and best friends Laurence Duggan and Alger Hiss. Besides, I visited relatives including my wife’s sister.

Still later in the same interrogation, after Field named other people to whom he had compromised himself, the name of Alger Hiss reappeared in that context:

Besides Paul Bertz, to whom else did you reveal that you have worked and still work for the Soviet intelligence?

As I have already stated earlier, I disclosed myself to Alger Hiss in 1935.  In 1942, I revealed my secret mission to Maria Weiterer and Paul Merker, and in 1948 in Warsaw to the Indian journalist Jo Silva. …

Why was it neccessary to divulge your secret mission to these persons?

Alger Hiss wanted to recruit me for the Soviet intelligence as well. At that time, I did not find the right answer straight away and thoughtlessly made him understand that I had already been working for the Soviet intelligence.

Nearly at the end of that long and grueling interrogation, in which Noel Field was asked 119 questions chiefly relating to his contacts with Soviet intelligence, he mentioned the name of Alger Hiss one more time:

What consequences did the betrayal of the Massings have on you later?

The Massings had indirectly informed the USC [Unitarian Service Committee, where Field worked for many years] headquarters in Boston that I was a communist and that I had contacts to communists prior to the war. In my opinion, this had also contributed to my discharge from the USC. In 1948 in Warsaw, I learned from the press that Massing was testifying to the HUAC. I do not have any knowledge about the content of this interrogation. I can only assume that it was in connection with the case of Alger Hiss, which was going on at that time.” 23

September 24, 1954, Budapest:

After 22 lengthy interrogations and dozens of memos written by Field, his Hungarian interrogators still did not believe him to be a bona fide Communist and an agent of Soviet intelligence – and not a “recruited agent of the American intelligence.” Hence, one of his interrogators, Major Hullay, schemed to “unmask” Field’s “hostile activities” by employing “a cell agent”:

“… He emphatically denies having been a recruited agent of the American intelligence and ever having spied for them or executed secret jobs. He emphasizes that he is a communist and also worked in terms of that.

To unmask the hostile activities of Noel Field it is necessary to employ a cell agent [stool pigeon]. We suggest Dr. Tamas Pasztor as the cell agent [stool pigeon]. … ” 24

September 29, 1954, Budapest, 24th Interrogation of Noel Field:

In the 24th interrogation, Noel Field was questioned about his association with Walter Krivitsky, and on that occasion he mentioned the Hiss case and the role of Whittaker Chambers [emphasis added]:

In 1948, I saw the name of Krivitsky in the press. That was during the Alger Hiss case in the USA. At that time a person named Chambers was interrogated as a witness, and he said that in the mid-1930s I was one of Hiss’s communist contacts. In his testimony Chambers also mentioned that the fact that I was a communist became obvious from Krivitsky’s newspaper articles.

What do you know about the articles that Krivitsky wrote after his betrayal?

I do not know anything about that, I learned about it only from Chambers’s statement that Kritivitsky had published articles. It is possible that I had heard something earlier, but I cannot remember it.

The interrogator then asked four more questions, trying to ascertain what Noel Field knew about Krivitsky’s “anti-Soviet book.” Field had no information to share, but he said instead that he assumed from the information that had reached him in Europe that his “communist activities before the war”— during his time at the State Department — had been “found out,” and that this was the reason for his decision “to settle in Prague.” The interrogator next questioned Field about another defector from the Soviet cause, Whittaker Chambers:

Who was Chambers whom you have mentioned in your previous statement?

I did not know him personally at all. I saw his name for the first time in the press in the summer of 1948, [while I was] in Warsaw. His name was mentioned in the press as someone who was interrogated as a witness in the Alger Hiss case.

My only knowledge about Chambers’s activities was what he said in his statement, in fact, what was reported in the press regarding that. As far as I can remember, the newspaper reports said that Chambers was a communist before the war and as such he was in contact with Alger Hiss and that he served as a contact between the party and Hiss as well.

From the next questions, it appears that the Hungarian interrogator did not know much about “der Alger Hiss-Affäre,” as he called it:

Was there any discussion of Alger Hiss as a man of the Soviet intelligence 25 during the  Alger Hiss affair, particularly, in the testimony of Chambers?

Initially, there was no talk about that; Chambers obviously did not say anything about that, because he did not want to unmask 26

The next series of questions reveal that the interrogator did not know much about Chambers either – or about the ex post facto sources of Field’s knowledge:

Nevertheless, Chambers was a man of the Soviet intelligence?

Seemingly yes, but that was revealed later, in 1949, when the FBI began investigation in this case. 27

How did you learn that Chambers was working for the Soviet intelligence as well?

In the beginning of 1949, the press reported that secret government documents had been found at Chambers’s place and it was concluded that he must have been a man of the Soviet intelligence.

Was this accusation confirmed later on?

I do not know, since I was imprisoned in the meantime and did not have any more opportunity to follow the press reports.  From what I had heard, the legal proceedings were instituted against Alger Hiss and, by contrast, not against Chambers.

In a former statement you have declared that Chambers was the main contact of Hiss. 28 How did you know about that?

Chambers himself stated that he was the contact between Hiss and the party. From what Hiss had told me, he had worked for the Soviet secret intelligence. 29

From that, I surmised that Chambers was Hiss’s main contact on the intelligence line. That was confirmed later: firstly, because secret documents procured by Hiss were discovered at Chambers’s place; secondly, in the aftermath of Chambers’ statement that he knew about the conversation between me and Hiss, in which he [Hiss] tried to recruit me for the intelligence work.

Thus Chambers knew about your contact to the Soviet intelligence as well?

Yes, he knew about that.

Has Chambers become a traitor in your view?


What is your opinion based on?

In connection with the betrayal of Chambers, I can only state that he worked for an anti-Soviet newspaper. He also engaged in anti-Soviet propaganda in front of the Un-American Committee. With his statements, he appeared as someone who wanted to unmask the communists working at the government agencies. About those things I did not have any specific knowledge, I only read about that in the newspapers.

At this point the interrogation was interrupted “temporarily.” 30

October 5, 1954, Budapest, the 25th interrogation of Noel Field:

Interrogation of Field was not resumed until a week later, on October 5. In what turned out to be Field’s last interrogation, he was again grilled about his past associations with “traitors” from the Soviet cause, Hede and Paul Massing, Walter Krivitsky and Ignacii Reiss (whom Field knew as “Eberhardt Reiss”).

In his third question, the interrogator asked about another “traitor,” Whittaker Chambers, whose name was brought up by Field late in the interrogations [emphasis added]:

Did Chambers become a traitor as well after he heard from Hiss about your work for the Soviet intelligence?

Apparently, yes.

Why do you say, apparently?

In fact, it is not right to say that Chambers has “apparently” become a traitor. Instead, it would be correct to say that he “did become a traitor”.

How do you know that he in fact became a traitor?

I know that from the press and from the published statement protocols of the Un-American [Activities] Committee, which I read in 1948/49 in Geneva.

At this point, the interrogator suddenly went back to charges of Field’s American espionage:

Provide information about compromising reports, which were given from your superior traitorous contacts to the American authorities.

About that, I have no knowledge whatsoever.

The interrogation was getting increasingly hostile, with Field trying to prove that he had been betrayed by Krivitsky and the Massings, while the interrogator grilled him about the substance of his story.

The interrogator then brought up Chambers’s name for the last time, with this question:

All the evidence seems to indicate that, initially Krivitsky, and later the married couple the Massings and Chambers, have betrayed your work for the intelligence. Again, I ask you the question, why didn’t the American authorities take proceedings against you?

Field could not provide a definite answer until the end of the interrogation. 31

October 6, 1954, Budapest:

It appears from Field’s Hungarian dossier that his case was finally sealed by a reference sent from Moscow, apparently in response to a Hungarian request. On October 6, Major Hullay, from the Main Investigative Department of the Hungarian Interior Ministry, wrote a Top Secret report, entitled “Field’s connection to the Soviet intelligence agencies.”

The five-page report, which gave a concise account of Noel Field’s revelations “about his connection to the Soviet intelligence agencies,” did not mention anything he had said about his indiscretion to Alger Hiss, whose name appeared only in the footnote to the report, which reads as follows:

Note: Field also unmasked his connection to the Soviet intelligence in 1935 to the American citizen Alger Hiss, and revealed himself to the Indian journalist Jo Silva in 1948 as well.

The married couple Paul and Hede Massing, who recruited the Fields in 1935 for intelligence work, committed betrayal and carried out anti-Soviet propaganda openly. 32

See also “Dinner Party” at the Fields’ I: Whittaker Chambers’s and Hede Massing’s Accounts (1939-1948)

Dinner Party” at the Fields’ III: Skeletons in the Closet (1990s and 2009)

  1. Noel Field an Jakub Berman, Noel Field: Kurze Parteigeschichte, Der Fall Noel Field, Schlüsselfigur der Schauprozesse in Osteuropa, Gefängnisjahre 1949-1954. Herausgegeben von Bernd-Rainer Barth und Werner Schweizer, BasisDruck, 2005., documents 1, 2, pp. 15-17, 18-28; the same documents were discovered in Russian translation in Cominform files, Fond 575, op. 1, file 141, pp. 119-125, 133-141, RGASPI.
  2. Noel Field an Leo Bauer, October 10, 1948/Prague, Der Fall Noel Field, doc. 3, p. 28; here and after, English translation from the German by Manfred Putzka, revised by Svetlana Chervonnaya (2006.)
  3. Hede Massing FBI FOIA file (NY 65-14920) – Courtesy of Jeff Kisseloff; emphasis added.
  4. Hede Massing’s testimony to the grand jury, December 8, 1948, Alger Hiss Grand Jury transcript, pp. BD 12. Emphasis added.
  5. The term “Noel Field dossier” originally appeared in publications of a Hungarian historian, Maria Schmidt, who in early 1990s was given access to a limited number of Hungarian state security files pertaining to the case of Noel Field. After the whole collection was declassified in 1997, it was studied by a German historian, Berndt-Rainer Barth, who published it in translation to German, along with documentation from the archives of other Central and East European countries, in Der Fall Noel Field, Schlüsselfigur der Schauprozesse in Osteuropa, Gefängnisjahre 1949-1954. Herausgegeben von Bernd-Rainer Barth und Werner Schweizer, BasisDruck, 2005.
  6. Hiss second perjury trial, vol. 2, pp. 1261-1301, Cit., Whittaker Chambers, A Biography, by Sam Tanenhaus, New York: The Modern Library, 1998, p. 420.
  7. Trial record, vol. 2, pp. 2639-2663.
  8. Witness, Op. cit., pp. 381-382.
  9. Major Szendy: Bericht über das Verhör der Fields, December 17, 1951, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. Cit., doc. 14, p. 112.
  10. Major Szendy: Aktennotiz, August 22, 1952, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 15, p. 128.
  11. Noel Field:  An das Zentralkomitee der KPdSU, March 18-22, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, doc. 19, pp. 145-219; Cit., p. 151.
  12. 1. Verhör von Noel Field, June 15, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 28, p. 261.
  13. Hede Massing testimony to the grand jury in the Alger Hiss case, Op. cit., p. LB16.
  14. 1. Verhör von Noel Field, Op. cit., p. 261.
  15. 2 Verhor von Noel Field, June 16, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 29, pp. 263-265. One of the aliases of Nathan Poretsky (known in the West as Ignacii Reiss) was that of a Czech businessman, Hans Eberhardt.
  16. Noel Field: Berufliche Tätigkeit, June 20, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 34, p. 301.
  17. Ibid., pp. 310, 330, 331.
  18. Noel Field: Geschichte meiner politischen Tätigkeit, July 6, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 49, pp. 393-394, 395. Emphasis added.
  19. Ibid., p. 422.
  20. Ibid., p. 508.
  21. Ibid., p. 510.
  22. Herta Field: Meine Reisen nach Deutschland 1934, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 114, pp. 989-899.
  23. 22 Verhör von Noel Field, September 23, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, op. cit., doc. 95, pp. 753; 759, 774, 779.
  24. Major Hullay: Plan zum Einsatz eines Kammeragenten, September 24, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, doc. 97, p. 784; emphasis added.
  25. In German, “ein Mann des sowjetischen Geheimdienstes”.
  26. Verbatim from the German, “enttarnen” himself any further. Field meant that Chambers did not want to add espionage to the charges of which he was accusing himself.
  27. The German, “als daß FBI den Fall untersuchte,” translates, verbatim, as “when the FBI inquired into this case.”
  28. The German is “vorgesetzte Kontaktmann von Hiss.”
  29. The German, “Ich hatte aus den Erzählungen von Hiss erfahren, daß dieser für den sowjeteschen Geheimdienst arbeitet,” means, verbatim, “I heard from the telling of Hiss’s that he worked for the Soviet secret intelligence.”
  30. 24 Verhor von Noel Field, September 29, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 99, pp. 793-795. Emphasis added.
  31. 25 Verhör von Noel Field, October 5, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 100, pp. 796-807.
  32. Major Hullay: Fields Verbindung zu sowjetischen Aufklarungsorganen, October 6, 1954, Der Fall Noel Field, Op. cit., doc. 101, p. 813.