John Herrmann : biography
John Theodore Herrmann was the person who introduced Whittaker Chambers to Alger Hiss.
He was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1900. He lived in Paris in the 1920s, as part of its famous expatriate American writers' circle, when he met his first wife, Josephine Herbst in 1924. Herbst enjoyed more success as a writer than Herrmann; the couple lived a few years in rural Pennsylvania, and were friends with Katherine Anne Porter. They divorced and in the same year, 1934, he went to work for the New Deal administration of Franklin Roosevelt. Based at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration Herrmann soon was a part of the Ware group, a secret apparatus of the CPUSA and Comintern in Washington, D.C., which supplied classified information to Soviet intelligence. From early 1934 until the summer of 1935, Herrmann was a paid courier for the CPUSA, delivering material emanating from the secret cells of sympathetic government employees being cultivated by Hal Ware to New York. Herrmann also was the person who introduced Whittaker Chambers to Alger Hiss.Elinor Langer, "The Secret Drawer," , May 30, 1994, p. 756Elinor Langer, Josephine Herbst (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984) ISBN 978-0-446-32853-1
Herrmann remarried, to Ruth Tate, and served in the United States Coast Guard at New Orleans in World War II. The couple fled the country and went to Mexico, when the FBI's Hiss-investigations began. Herrmann applied in March 1949 to Mexico City College as a speech and drama major, but attended for only the Fall 1950 and Winter 1951 quarters. A photograph in the Nov. 16, 1950 issue of M.C.C.'s student paper, the Collegian, shows Earl Sennett speaking to twelve students in his "Studio Stages" drama group; among them are Frank Jeffries, Alice Hartman, and John Herrmann. During his time at Mexico City College, Herrmann was also, according to James W. Grauerholz's 2002 investigation, in an apartment located at 122 Monterrey hours before William Burroughs shot and killed his wife, Joan Vollmer Burroughs.
The Ware group's activities were investigated in the late 1940s by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Herrmann was placed under surveillance and questioned many times in Mexico by the FBI. He died near the Pacific Ocean in April 1959, at the Hotel Navidad, in Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, Mexico from chronic alcoholism.
Books by John Herrmann
- What Happens. Contact Editions, Paris 1928.
- Summer is Ended (1932)
- The Salesman (1939)
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