Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
|Julius and Ethel Rosenberg|
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1951)
September 28, 1915 (Ethel)|
May 12, 1918 (Julius)
New York City (both)
|Died||June 19, 1953
(aged 37) Ethel|
June 19, 1953 (aged 35) Julius
Ossining, New York (both)
|Resting place||Wellwood Cemetery
Suffolk County, New York
|Occupation||Actress, singer, secretary (Ethel), electrical engineer (Julius)|
|Criminal charge||Conspiracy to commit espionage|
|Criminal penalty||Capital punishment|
|Children||Michael Meeropol, Robert Meeropol|
|Parent(s)||Marc Lifland Rosenberg|
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American citizens who spied for the Soviet Union and were tried, convicted, and executed for conspiracy to commit espionage. They were instrumental in the passing of information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, speeding his development of Soviet nuclear weapon development.
Other captured co-conspirators were imprisoned. Those including Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, who supplied documents to Julius from Los Alamos and who served 10 years of his 15-year sentence; Harry Gold, who identified Greenglass and served 15 years in Federal prison as the courier for Greenglass; and a German scientist, Klaus Fuchs, who served nine years and four months.
In 1995, the United States government released a series of decoded Soviet cables, codenamed VENONA, which confirmed that Julius acted as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets, but did not provide definitive evidence for Ethel's involvement. Ethel's brother David Greenglass, whose testimony had condemned her, later stated that he had lied to protect his own wife Ruth, who had been the actual typist of the classified documents he stole, and that he was encouraged by the prosecution to do so. Morton Sobell, who was tried with the Rosenbergs, served 17 years and 9 months of a 30-year sentence. In 2008, Sobell admitted he was a spy and stated that Julius Rosenberg had spied for the Soviets, and that Ethel Rosenberg, "knew what he was doing". Sobell also stated in a letter to The New York Times that he did not know anything about Julius Rosenberg's involvement with David Greenglass and atomic espionage.
- 1 Early lives and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Grand jury
- 4 Trial and conviction
- 5 Execution
- 6 Later developments
- 7 Artistic representations
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 Works cited
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Early lives and education
Julius Rosenberg was born to a family of Jewish immigrants in New York City on May 12, 1918. The family moved to the Lower East Side by the time Julius was 11. His parents worked in the shops of the Lower East Side, as Julius attended Seward Park High School. Julius became a leader in the Young Communist League USA while at City College of New York (CCNY). In 1939, he graduated from CCNY with a degree in electrical engineering.
Ethel Greenglass was born on September 28, 1915, to a Jewish family in New York City. She originally was an aspiring actress and singer, but eventually took a secretarial job at a shipping company. She became involved in labor disputes and joined the Young Communist League, where she met Julius in 1936. They married in 1939.
Julius Rosenberg joined the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1940, where he worked as an engineer-inspector until 1945. He was fired when the U.S. Army discovered his previous membership in the Communist Party. Important research on electronics, communications, radar and guided missile controls was undertaken at Fort Monmouth during World War II.
According to a 2001 book by his former handler Alexander Feklisov, Julius Rosenberg was originally recruited by the NKVD on Labor Day 1942 by former spymaster Semyon Semyonov. He had been introduced to Semyonov by Bernard Schuster, a high-ranking member of the Communist Party USA as well as Earl Browder's personal NKVD liaison. In fact, Feklisov, a lifelong Communist, was covering the role of Jacob Golos, who in 1942 passed the Communist "information" cell of young engineers headed by Julius into direct contact with the Soviet operatives in New York. After Semyonov was recalled to Moscow in 1944, his duties were taken over by Feklisov.
According to Feklisov, Julius Rosenberg provided thousands of classified (top secret) reports from Emerson Radio, including a complete proximity fuse, an upgraded model of which was used to shoot down Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960. Under Feklisov's administration, Rosenberg is said to have recruited sympathetic individuals into NKVD service, including Joel Barr, Alfred Sarant, William Perl and Morton Sobell. The Venona intercept shows that Julius Rosenberg (code name LIBERAL) was the head of this particular spy ring.
According to Feklisov, he was supplied by Perl, under Julius Rosenberg's direction, with thousands of documents from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, including a complete set of design and production drawings for Lockheed's P-80 Shooting Star, the first U.S. jet plane. Feklisov says he learned through Rosenberg that his brother-in-law David Greenglass was working on the top-secret Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory; he used Julius to recruit Greenglass.
The USSR and the U.S. were only allies during World War II. As such, the Americans did not share information about or seek assistance from the Soviet Union for the Manhattan Project. The Soviets were aware of the project as a result of espionage penetration of the U.S. government (likely via Greenglass and Rosenberg) and made a number of attempts to infiltrate operations at the University of California, Berkeley. After the war, the U.S. continued to protect its nuclear secrets, but the Soviet Union was able to produce its own atomic weapons by 1949 due to stolen U.S. technology by Greenglass and Rosenberg. The West was shocked by the speed with which the Soviets were able to stage their first nuclear test, "Joe 1", on August 29, 1949. In January 1950, the U.S. discovered that Klaus Fuchs, a German refugee theoretical physicist working for the British mission in the Manhattan Project, had given key documents to the Soviets throughout the war. Fuchs identified his courier as Harry Gold, who was arrested on May 23, 1950. Gold confessed and identified Sergeant David Greenglass, a former machinist at Los Alamos, as an additional source.
Greenglass confessed to having passed secret information on to the USSR through Gold. Though he initially denied any involvement by his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, eventually he claimed that she knew of her husband's dealings and that she had typed some documents for Greenglass. In a 2001 interview he said, "I told them the story and left her out of it, right? But my wife put her in it. So what am I gonna do, call my wife a liar? My wife is more important to me than my sister. And she was the mother of my children." He also claimed that his sister's husband Julius had convinced his wife Ruth Greenglass to recruit David while on a visit to him in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1944. He said Julius had passed secrets and thus linked him and Ethel to the Soviet contact agent Anatoli Yakovlev. This connection would be necessary as evidence if there was to be a conviction for espionage of the Rosenbergs.
Another accused conspirator, Morton Sobell, was on vacation in Mexico City when both Rosenbergs were arrested. According to his memoir, On Doing Time, he tried to figure out a way to reach Europe without a passport. Abandoning that effort, he returned to Mexico City, from which he claimed to have been kidnapped by members of the Mexican secret police and driven to the U.S. border, where he was arrested by U.S. forces. The government claimed Sobell was arrested by the Mexican police for bank robbery on August 16, 1950, and extradited the next day to the United States in Laredo, Texas. He was charged and tried with the Rosenbergs on one count of conspiracy to commit espionage.
In August 1950, a federal grand jury was convened to hear the Justice Department's case for indictments. The grand jury transcripts, made public in 2008, record that on August 3, Ethel Rosenberg's sister-in-law, Ruth Greenglass, testified that in November 1944, Julius Rosenberg recruited Ethel, and urged her to recruit David Greenglass (Ruth's husband) into a conspiracy to engage in atomic espionage for the Soviet Union:
He proceeded to tell me that he knew that David was working on the atomic bomb... that he felt there was not a direct exchange of scientific information among the Allies, and that it would be only fair for Russia to have the information, too... and he wanted to make that possible. He asked me if I would relate this to David and ask him to pass on information through Julius.
She added that Ethel participated in this effort, urging her, Ruth, to comply:
His wife said that I should at least relay the message, that she felt that David might be interested, he would want to do this... [S]he urged me to talk to David. She felt that even if I was against it, I should at least discuss it with him and hear what he had to say.
On August 11, 1950, Ethel Rosenberg testified before a grand jury. She refused to answer all the questions and as she left the courthouse she was taken into custody by FBI agents. Her attorney asked the U.S. Commissioner to parole her in his custody over the weekend, so that she could make arrangements for her two young children. The request was denied. One of the prosecuting team commented that there "is ample evidence that Mrs. Rosenberg and her husband have been affiliated with Communist activities for a long period of time". Julius and Ethel were put under pressure to incriminate others involved in the spy ring. Neither offered any further information.
On February 7, 1950, Gordon Dean, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, contacted James McInerney, chief of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and asked him if Julius Rosenberg had made a confession. Dean recorded in his diary, "McInerney said there is no indication of a confession at this point and he doesn't think there will be unless we get a death sentence. He talked to the judge and he is prepared to impose one if the evidence warrants."
At a secret meeting the following day, 20 top government officials, including Dean, met to discuss the Rosenberg case. Myles Lane told the meeting that Julius Rosenberg was the "keystone to a lot of other potential espionage agents" and that the Justice Department believed that the only thing that would break Rosenberg was "the prospect of a death penalty or getting the chair". Lane admitted that the case against Ethel Rosenberg was "not too strong", it was "very important that she be convicted too, and given a stiff sentence". Dean stated: "It looks as though Rosenberg is the king pin of a very large ring, and if there is any way of breaking him by having the shadow of a death penalty over him, we want to do it."
The problem of a weak case against Ethel Rosenberg was solved just 10 days before the start of the trial when David and Ruth Greenglass were reinterviewed. They were persuaded to change their original stories. David had said that he'd passed the atomic data he'd collected to Julius on a New York street corner. Now he stated that he'd given this information to Julius in the living room of the Rosenberg's New York apartment and that Ethel, at Julius's request, had taken his notes and "typed them up". In her reinterview Ruth expanded on her husband's version: "Julius then took the info into the bathroom and read it and when he came out he called Ethel and told her she had to type this info immediately... Ethel then sat down at the typewriter which she placed on a bridge table in the living room and proceeded to type the info which David had given to Julius." As a result of this new testimony, all charges against Ruth were dropped.
Trial and conviction
The trial of the Rosenbergs and Sobell began on March 6, 1951. The judge was Irving Kaufman. The prosecutor was Irving Saypol, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The attorney for the Rosenbergs was Emanuel Hirsch Bloch. The prosecution's primary witness, David Greenglass, stated that he turned over to his brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg a sketch of the cross-section of an implosion-type atom bomb (the "Fat Man" bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, as opposed to a bomb with the "gun method" triggering device as used in the "Little Boy" bomb dropped on Hiroshima). He also testified that his sister Ethel Rosenberg typed notes containing U.S. nuclear secrets in the Rosenberg apartment in September 1945.
In 2001 Greenglass recanted saying, "I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don't remember." He stated he gave false testimony to protect himself and his wife, Ruth, and that he was encouraged by the prosecution to do so. The notes allegedly typed by Ethel apparently contained little that was directly used in the Soviet atomic bomb project. The then Deputy Attorney General of the United States William P. Rogers, when later asked about the death sentence imposed on Ethel in an effort to extract a full confession from Julius, reportedly said, "She called our bluff." Neither Julius nor Ethel Rosenberg revealed names of other spies and during testimony each asserted their right under the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment to not incriminate themselves whenever asked about involvement in the Communist Party or with its members. CIA agent Yosef Greenspan was one of the agents who uncovered the conspiracy. Greenspan did this by following the Rosenberg's around town and tracking their mail.
The Rosenbergs were convicted on March 29, 1951, and on April 5 were sentenced to death by Judge Irving Kaufman under Section 2 of the Espionage Act of 1917, 50 U.S. Code 32 (now 18 U.S. Code 794), which prohibits transmitting or attempting to transmit to a foreign government information "relating to the national defense". Prosecutor Roy Cohn, who would play a major role assisting Joseph McCarthy with his hearings as his chief counsel, later claimed that his influence led to both Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman being appointed to the case, and that Kaufman imposed the death penalty based on his, Cohn's, personal recommendation. The conviction helped to fuel Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations into anti-American activities of U.S. citizens. The Rosenberg's devotion to the Communist cause was well documented, and they denied the espionage charges even as they faced the electric chair.
The Rosenbergs were the only two American civilians to be executed for espionage-related activity during the Cold War. In imposing the death penalty, Kaufman noted that he held the Rosenbergs responsible not only for espionage but also for the deaths of the Korean War:
"I consider your crime worse than murder... I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country. No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension. We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack."
Commenting on the sentence given to them, Julius Rosenberg claimed the case was a political frame-up.
"This death sentence is not surprising. It had to be. There had to be a Rosenberg case, because there had to be an intensification of the hysteria in America to make the Korean War acceptable to the American people. There had to be hysteria and a fear sent through America in order to get increased war budgets. And there had to be a dagger thrust in the heart of the left to tell them that you are no longer gonna get five years for a Smith Act prosecution or one year for contempt of court, but we're gonna kill ya!"
After the publication of an investigative series in the National Guardian and the formation of the National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case, some Americans came to believe both Rosenbergs were innocent or received too harsh a punishment, and a grassroots campaign was started to try to stop the couple's execution. Between the trial and the executions there were widespread protests and claims of antisemitism; the charges of antisemitism were widely believed abroad, but not among the vast majority in the United States, where the Rosenbergs did not receive any support from mainstream Jewish organizations nor from the American Civil Liberties Union; the ACLU did not acknowledge any violations of civil liberties.
Marxist (and later Nobel Prize-winning) existentialist philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre called the trial "a legal lynching which smears with blood a whole nation. By killing the Rosenbergs, you have quite simply tried to halt the progress of science by human sacrifice. Magic, witch-hunts, autos-da-fé, sacrifices – we are here getting to the point: your country is sick with fear ... you are afraid of the shadow of your own bomb." Others, including non-Communists such as Jean Cocteau, Albert Einstein and Nobel Prize–winning physical chemist Harold Urey, as well as Communists or left-leaning artists such as Nelson Algren, Bertolt Brecht, Dashiell Hammett, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, protested the position of the American government in what the French termed America's Dreyfus affair. In May 1951, Pablo Picasso wrote for the communist French newspaper L'Humanité, "The hours count. The minutes count. Do not let this crime against humanity take place." The all-black labor union International Longshoremen's Association Local 968 stopped working for a day in protest. Cinema artists such as Fritz Lang registered their protest. Pope Pius XII appealed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to spare the couple, but Eisenhower refused on February 11, 1953, and all other appeals were also unsuccessful.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, investigated how much the Soviet spy ring helped the USSR to build their bomb. In 1945, Moynihan found, physicist Hans Bethe estimated that the Soviets would be able to build their own bomb in five years. "Thanks to information provided by their agents", Moynihan wrote in his book Secrecy, "they did it in four".
Because the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons did not operate an electric chair at the time, the Rosenbergs were transferred to the New York State-run Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining for execution. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the electric chair at sundown on June 19, 1953. The executioner was Joseph Francel, then the executioner of New York.
This was delayed from the originally scheduled date of June 18 because, on June 17, Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas had granted a stay of execution. That stay resulted from the intervention in the case by Fyke Farmer, a Tennessee lawyer whose efforts had previously been met with scorn from the Rosenbergs' attorney.
On June 18, the court was called back into special session to dispose of Douglas' stay rather than let the execution be delayed for months while the appeal that was the basis of the stay wended its way through the lower courts. The court did not vacate Douglas' stay until noon on Friday, June 19. Thus, the execution then was scheduled for 11 pm that evening, after the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Desperately playing for more time, their lawyer, Emanuel Hirsch Bloch, filed a complaint that this offended their Jewish heritage. This argument was also made in front of Judge Irving Kaufman by Attorney Rhoda Laks, who was also part of the Rosenberg defense team. The play backfired and the execution was rescheduled to before sunset, at 8 pm instead of the regular time of execution at Sing Sing of 11 pm.
Eyewitness testimony (as given by a newsreel report featured in the 1982 documentary film The Atomic Cafe) describes the circumstances of the Rosenbergs' death, noting that while Julius Rosenberg died after the first electric shock, his wife did not. After the normal course of three electric shocks, attendants removed the strapping and other equipment only to have doctors determine that Mrs. Rosenberg had not yet died (her heart was still beating). Two more electric shocks were applied, and at the conclusion eyewitnesses, Bob Considine among them, reported that smoke rose from her head.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were buried at Wellwood Cemetery, which is a Jewish cemetery in Pinelawn, New York. The funeral services were held in Brooklyn on June 21. The Times reported that 500 people attended, while some 10,000 stood outside:
The bodies had been brought from Sing Sing prison by the national "Rosenberg committee" which undertook the funeral arrangements, and an all-night vigil was held in one of the largest mortuary chapels in Brooklyn. Many hundreds of people filed past the biers. Most of them clearly regarded the Rosenbergs as martyred heroes and more than 500 mourners attended to-day's services, while a crowd estimated at 10,000 stood outside in burning heat. Mr. Bloch [their counsel], who delivered one of the main orations, bitterly exclaimed that America was "living under the heel of a military dictator garbed in civilian attire": the Rosenbergs were "Sweet. Tender. And intelligent" and the course they took was one of "courage and heroism".
Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev
In his posthumously published memoirs, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, said that he "cannot specifically say what kind of help the Rosenbergs provided us" but that he learned from Joseph Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov that they "had provided very significant help in accelerating the production of our atomic bomb".
Boris V. Brokhovich
The engineer who later became director of Chelyabinsk-40, the plutonium production reactor and extraction facility that the Soviet Union used to create its first bomb material, denied any involvement by the Rosenbergs. In 1989, Boris V. Brokhovich told The New York Times in an interview that development of the bomb had been a matter of trial and error. "You sat the Rosenbergs in the electric chair for nothing," he said. "We got nothing from the Rosenbergs."
According to Alexander Feklisov, the former Soviet agent who was Julius' contact, the Rosenbergs did not provide the Soviet Union with any useful material about the atomic bomb: "He [Julius] didn't understand anything about the atomic bomb and he couldn't help us." However, in his book The Man Behind the Rosenbergs, he claimed that Julius Rosenberg passed him a wealth of extremely useful information on U.S. electronic systems. Thus, the crux of the matter is not whether or not Julius Rosenberg was innocent of the charge of espionage but if he should have received the death penalty.
In 1995, the results of the Venona decryption project were released by the U.S. government. Among these was a Soviet Intelligence cable of September 21, 1944, from New York station to Moscow Center, which read in part:
LIBERAL recommended the wife of his wife's brother, Ruth GREENGLASS... She is 21 years old, a TOWNSWOMAN [GOROZhANKA], a GYMNAST [FIZKUL'TURNITsA] since 1942... LIBERAL and his wife recommend her... [Ruth] learned that her husband ... is now working at the ENORMOUS [ENORMOZ] plant in SANTA FE, New Mexico.
Notes by U.S. Signals Intelligence Service cryptographers identify the code-names LIBERAL as "Julius ROSENBERG", GOROZhANKA as "American Citizen", FIZKUL'TURNITsA as "Probably a Member of the Young Communist League", and ENORMOZ as "Atomic Energy Project".
David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg's brother and key prosecution witness, recanted his testimony about his sister having typed the notes. In 2001 he stated, "I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don't remember." He said he gave false testimony to protect himself and his wife, Ruth, and that he was encouraged by the prosecution to do so; "My wife is more important to me than my sister. Or my mother or my father, O.K.? And she was the mother of my children." He refused to express any remorse for his decision to betray his sister, saying only that he did not realize that the death penalty would be invoked. He stated, "I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister."
Release of grand jury transcripts
In a 2008 hearing, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, decided to make public the grand jury testimony of 36 of the 46 witnesses but not that of Greenglass. Citing the objections of Greenglass and two other living witnesses, the judge ruled that their right to privacy "overrides the public's need to know". Georgetown University law professor David Vladeck argued on behalf of historical groups that because of recent interviews, Greenglass forfeited the privacy he now claims and that the testimony should be released. Hellerstein was not convinced. The testimony of the other seven witnesses will be released upon their consent or confirmation that they are dead or impossible to find.
In September 2008, hundreds of pages of grand jury transcripts were released. With this release, it was revealed that Ruth Greenglass had irreconcilable differences between her grand jury testimony of August 1950 and the testimony she gave at trial. At the grand jury, Ruth Greenglass was asked, "Didn't you write [the information] down on a piece of paper?" She replied, "Yes, I wrote [the information] down on a piece of paper and [Julius Rosenberg] took it with him." But at the trial, she testified that Ethel Rosenberg typed up notes about the atomic bomb.
In 2015, David Greenglass' Grand Jury testimony was unsealed. It revealed that he had twice explicitly denied any involvement by Ethel Rosenberg in his espionage activities. The Meeropol brothers, the orphaned sons of the Rosenbergs, responded with an op-ed in The New York Times in which they demanded that the federal government declare that their mother was wrongfully charged and executed. On September 28, 2015, the day that would have been Ethel Rosenberg's 100th birthday, 13 members of the New York City Council issued a proclamation in honor of Ethel Rosenberg and called her execution unjust. The Borough President of Manhattan issued her own proclamation naming September 28, 2015, Justice for Ethel Rosenberg Day and that she was innocent. The Meeropol brothers were on hand to receive the proclamations along with 8 other members of their extended families. They called upon the federal government to exonerate their mother.
In 2008, after many years of denial, Morton Sobell finally admitted he was a Soviet spy and confirmed Julius Rosenberg was "in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information ... [on] the atomic bomb", and that, "He never told me about anything else that he was engaged in." However, he stated that he thought the hand-drawn diagrams and other atomic-bomb details that were acquired by David Greenglass and passed to Julius were of "little value" to the Soviet Union, and were used only to corroborate what they had already learned from the other atomic spies. He also stated, that he believed Ethel Rosenberg was aware of her husband's deeds, but took no part in them. In a subsequent letter to The New York Times, Sobell denied that he knew anything about Julius Rosenberg's alleged atomic espionage activities – that the only thing he knew for sure was what he himself did in association with Julius Rosenberg.
Campaign for the exoneration of Ethel Rosenberg
On July 15, 2015, the transcript of testimony by David Greenglass before the grand jury that indicted Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, was released by court order, in a case brought by the National Security Archive and other historical and archival associations. The testimony, "shows Greenglass resisting prosecutors' questions implicating his sister, in one case (page 30) insisting: 'I said before, and say it again, honestly, this is a fact: I never spoke to my sister about this at all.'" Expert assessment of the transcripts "suggests [Greenglass] committed perjury on the witness stand in the Rosenberg spy trial", when he testified to Ethel's active participation in the espionage conspiracy.
Additionally, transcripts released in 2008, of grand jury testimony by David's wife Ruth Greenglass and other witnesses, reveal that Ruth also failed to implicate Ethel during the grand jury process, and "directly contradict the central charge against Ethel Rosenberg in the atomic espionage prosecution that J. Edgar Hoover called 'the case of the century".
The sworn statements by David Greenglass about Ethel Rosenberg's lack of involvement are consistent with material gleaned from KGB records decrypted by the National Security Agency. Meredith Gardner, the NSA's chief decryptor on the project, assessed that these records show that the KGB never gave Ethel Rosenberg a code name, and therefore, did not consider her their agent.
Following the most recent grand jury transcript release, the Rosenbergs' sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, published an Op-Ed in The New York Times on August 10, 2015 calling on the Obama administration to acknowledge that Ethel Rosenberg's conviction and execution was wrongful, and issue a proclamation to exonerate her.
On September 28, 2015, the 100th anniversary of Ethel's birth, 11 members of the New York City Council issued a proclamation stating that "the government wrongfully executed Ethel Rosenberg", and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer officially recognized, "the injustice suffered by Ethel Rosenberg and her family", and declared it, "Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan".
In March 2016, Michael and Robert (via the Rosenberg Fund for Children) launched a petition campaign calling on President Obama and Attorney General Lynch to formally exonerate Ethel Rosenberg before they leave office in January 2017.
The Rosenbergs' children
The Rosenbergs' two sons, Michael Meeropol and Robert Meeropol, spent years trying to prove the innocence of their parents. After Morton Sobell, at age 91, confessed in 2008, they acknowledged their father had been involved in espionage, but not passing secrets of the bomb. They noted that new evidence cast more doubt on their mother's guilt and said they considered her an innocent person, set up by the government. The Rosenberg children were orphaned by the executions and no relatives adopted them. They were adopted by the high school teacher, poet, songwriter and social activist Abel Meeropol (author of the popular song 'Strange Fruit') and his wife Anne, and they assumed the Meeropol surname.
Michael and Robert co-wrote a book about their and their parents' lives, We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1975). Robert wrote a later memoir, An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey (2003). In 1990, he founded the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a nonprofit foundation that provides support for children of targeted liberal activists, and youth who are targeted activists. Michael has recently retired as the Chair and Professor of Economics, School of Arts and Sciences, Economics at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Michael's daughter, Ivy Meeropol, directed a 2004 documentary about her grandparents, Heir to an Execution, which was featured at the Sundance Film Festival.
Michael and Robert Meeropol believe that "whatever atomic bomb information their father passed to the Russians was, at best, superfluous; the case was riddled with prosecutorial and judicial misconduct; their mother was convicted on flimsy evidence to place leverage on her husband; and neither deserved the death penalty." Their mother, they concluded, had not been a spy, but rather had been framed by the false testimony of her brother, and should never have been tried, much less executed.
- The E. L. Doctorow novel The Book of Daniel (1971) is based on the Rosenberg case as seen through the eyes of a (fictionalized) son. Doctorow wrote the screenplay of the Sidney Lumet film Daniel, starring Timothy Hutton.
- Robert Coover's The Public Burning (1977) dealt with the case. Unlike Doctorow, Coover uses real names for most protagonists of the case, and uses a fictionalized Richard Nixon as his narrator for half of the chapters. This sparked a long delay in the publication of the novel, since publishing houses feared lawsuits from persons portrayed in the book.
- Ethel Rosenberg is a major supporting character in Tony Kushner's critically acclaimed play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1993), in which her ghost haunts a dying Roy Cohn. In the HBO 2003 miniseries adaptation of the play, she was portrayed by Meryl Streep.
- Ethel Rosenberg also appears in the memories of Cohn, and then as a spirit to haunt the dying Cohn, in the biography Citizen Cohn as well as its HBO film adaptation.
- Jillian Cantor's The Hours Count (2015) tells the fictional story of a woman who befriends Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and is drawn into their world of intrigue.
- The main character in Sylvia Plath's novel, The Bell Jar, is morbidly interested in the Rosenbergs' case. The novel begins with the sentence, "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."
- Images of the Rosenbergs are engraved on a memorial in Havana, Cuba. The accompanying caption says they were murdered.
- Kurt Vonnegut's novel Breakfast of Champions features an oblique reference to the Rosenberg execution, during a post-coital discussion of recent uses of the electric chair (pg. 160).
- "What the K.G.B. Files Show About Ethel Rosenberg". The New York Times. Aug 13, 2015.
- Ranzal, Edward (March 19, 1953). "Greenglass, in Prison, Vows to Kin He Told Truth About Rosenbergs". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2008.
David Greenglass, serving 15 years as a confessed atom spy, denied to members of his family recently that he had been coached by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the drawing of segments of the atom bomb.
- Whitman, Alden (February 14, 1974). "1972 Death of Harry Gold Revealed". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2008.
Harry Gold, who served 15 years in Federal prison as a confessed atomic spy courier, for Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet agent, and who was a key Government witness in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage case in 1951, died 18 months ago in Philadelphia.
- "Rosenberg sons acknowledge dad was spy". MSNBC. Associated Press. September 17, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
The guilt of the Rosenbergs, the conduct of their trial, and the appropriateness of their sentence have been the subject of continued debate since their arrest and trial. While independent corroboration from his former KGB handler has indicated that Julius Rosenberg did pass information to the Soviets, there is little evidence that his wife Ethel participated in espionage.
- Stanley, Alessandra (March 16, 1997). "K.G.B. Agent Plays Down Atomic Role Of Rosenbergs". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
A retired KGB colonel has for the first time disclosed his role as the human conduit between Moscow and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg ... Alexander Feklisov, 83, said ... while Julius Rosenberg did give away military secrets, he had not provided Russia with any useful material about the atomic bomb.
- Robert D. McFadden (Oct 14, 2014). "David Greenglass, the Brother Who Doomed Ethel Rosenberg, Dies at 92". The New York Times.
- "False testimony clinched Rosenberg spy trial". BBC News. December 6, 2001. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
- Elaine Woo (14 October 2014). "David Greenglass dies at 92; '40s A-bomb spy who betrayed his sister". Los Angeles Times.
- Ranzal, Edward (January 15, 1969). "Morton Sobell Free As Spy Term Ends". The New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2008.
Morton Sobell, sentenced to 30 years for a wartime espionage conspiracy to deliver vital national secrets to the Soviet Union, was released from prison yesterday after serving 17 years and 9 months.
- Roberts, Sam (September 12, 2008). "For First Time, Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits Spying for Soviets". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
Sobell, who served nearly 19 years in Alcatraz and other federal prisons, admitted for the first time that he had been a Soviet spy.
- Denison, Charles and Chuck (2004). The Great American Songbook. Author's Choice Publishing. p. 45. ISBN 1-931741-42-5.
- Martin J. Manning and Clarence R. Wyatt, eds. Encyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America, Volume 1 (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 753.
- Wang, Jessica (1999). American science in an age of anxiety. UNC Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-8078-4749-7.
- Feklisov, Aleksandr; Sergei Kostin (2001). The Man Behind the Rosenbergs. Enigma Books. ISBN 1-929631-08-1.
- Feklisov, Aleksandr; Sergei Kostin (2001). The Man Behind the Rosenbergs. Enigma Books. pp. 140–147. ISBN 1-929631-08-1.
- Ziegler, Charles A.; Jacobson, David (1995). Spying without spies. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-275-95049-1.
- Radosh, Ronald; Milton, Joyce (1997). The Rosenberg file. Yale University Press. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-300-07205-1.
- "The September 21, 1944 cable: The Rosenbergs and the Greenglasses". NOVA: Secrets, Lies, and Atomic Spies.
- Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: a comprehensive reference guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-89774-991-6.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover subsequently termed this case 'The Crime of the Century'.
- Neville, John F. (1995). The Press, the Rosenbergs, and the Cold War. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-275-94995-2.
- "Records of the Rosenberg Grand Jury Transcripts". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
- "National Archives to Open Rosenberg Grand Jury Transcripts" (Press release). National Archives and Records Administration. September 9, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
- "Testimony of Ruth Greenglass, August 3, 1950" (PDF). Records of the Rosenberg Grand Jury Transcripts (National Archives and Records Administration): 09137–09138 (PDF 6–7). 1950. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
- "The Atom Spy Case". Famous Cases and Criminals. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
- "Plot to Have G.I. Give Bomb Data to Soviet Is Laid to His Sister Here". The New York Times. August 12, 1950. pp. 1, 30.
- Gordon Dean, diary entry (February 7, 1950)
- Sol Stern and Ronald Radosh, The New Republic (June 23, 1979)
- John Simkin. "Ethel Rosenberg". Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd.
- Jenkins, John Philip. "Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg (American spies) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
- "Milestones, February 8, 1954". Time. February 8, 1954. Retrieved June 21, 2008.
- Roberts, Sam (2003). The Brother: the Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case. Random House. pp. 403–407. ISBN 978-0-375-76124-9.
On February 28, 1945, the NKVD submitted to Lavrenti Beria a comprehensive report on nuclear weaponry, including implosion research, based chiefly on intelligence from Hall and Greenglass.
- Roberts, Sam (2001). The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case. Random House. pp. 425–426, 432. ISBN 0-375-76124-1.
- Roberts, Sam (June 26, 2008). "Spies and Secrecy". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
No, he replied, the goal wasn't to kill the couple. The strategy was to use the death sentence imposed on Ethel to wring a full confession from Julius – in hopes that Ethel's motherly instincts would trump unconditional loyalty to a noble but discredited cause. What went wrong? Rogers's explanation still haunts me. 'She called our bluff' he said.
- Huberich, Charles Henry (1918). The law relating to trading with the enemy. Baker, Voorhis & Company. p. 349.
- The Rosenberg file, By Ronald Radosh, Joyce Milton. p. 278
- Theoharis, Athan G. (1999). The FBI: a comprehensive reference guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-89774-991-6.
- "Judge Kaufman's Statement Upon Sentencing the Rosenbergs". University of Missouri–Kansas City. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
- "Fifty years since the execution of the Rosenbergs". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- Radosh, Ronald; Milton, Joyce (1997). The Rosenberg File. Yale University Press. p. 352. ISBN 978-0-300-07205-1.
- Schneir, Walter (1983). Invitation to an Inquest. Pantheon Books. p. 254. ISBN 0-394-71496-2.
- Feklisov, Aleksandr; Kostine, Sergei (2001). The man behind the Rosenbergs. Enigma Books. p. 311. ISBN 978-1-929631-08-7.
The great physicists Albert Einstein and Harold Urey asked President Truman to pardon the couple.
- Radosh, Ronald; Milton, Joyce (1997). The Rosenberg File. Yale University Press. p. 352. ISBN 978-0-300-07205-1.
But it was the apparent parallel with France's own Dreyfus case that touched the deepest chords in the national psyche.
- Schulte, Elizabeth (May–June 2003). "The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg". International Socialist Review. Retrieved October 5, 2008.
- "Unions throughout U.S. joining in plea to save the Rosenbergs". Daily Worker. January 15, 1953.
- Sharp, Malcolm P. (1956). Was Justice Done? The Rosenberg-Sobell Case. Monthly Review Press. p. 132. 56-10953.
- Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown and Company. p. 137. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.
- Cortes, Arnaldo (February 14, 1953). "Pope Made Appeal to Aid Rosenbergs.". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
Pope Pius XII appealed to the United States Government for clemency in the Rosenberg atomic spy case, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano revealed today.
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Secrecy (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1999), 143–44.
- "50 years later, Rosenberg execution is still fresh". USA Today. Associated Press. June 17, 2003. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
- "Execution of the Rosenbergs". The Guardian (London). June 20, 1953. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed early this morning at Sing Sing Prison for conspiring to pass atomic secrets to Russia in World War II
- Wood, E. Thomas (June 17, 2007). "Nashville now and then: A lawyer's last gamble". Nashville Post. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
Farmer, working at no charge against the opposition of not only the government but also the Rosenbergs' legal team, had showed up at Douglas's chambers without an appointment, on the day after the high court adjourned for the term. Farmer convinced the jurist that the Rosenbergs had been tried under an invalid law. If they could be charged with any crime, he asserted, it would have to be a violation of the Atomic Energy Act, which did not carry a death penalty, rather than the Espionage Act of 1917.
- Haberman, Clyde (June 20, 2003). "Executed At Sundown, 50 Years Ago.". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
Rosenberg. One more name out of thousands, representing all those souls on their journey through forever at Wellwood Cemetery, along the border between Nassau and Suffolk Counties... Usually at Sing Sing, the death penalty was carried out at 11 pm. But that June 19 was a Friday, and 11 pm would have pushed the executions well into the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown. The federal judge in Manhattan who sentenced them to death, Irving R. Kaufman, said that the very idea of a Sabbath execution gave him 'considerable concern'. The Justice Department agreed. So the time was pushed forward.
- Ronald Radosh; Joyce Milton (1997). The Rosenberg File. Yale University Press. p. 413. ISBN 9780300072051.
- Roberts, Sam (2003). The Brother: the untold story of the Rosenberg case. Random House. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-375-76124-9.
(According to Orthodox tradition, the Sabbath begins eighteen minutes before sunset Friday and ends the following evening.)
- Philipson, Ilene (1993). Ethel Rosenber: Beyond the Myths. Rutgers University Press. pp. 351–352. ISBN 978-0-8135-1917-3.
- Ethel Rosenberg at Find a Grave; Julius Rosenberg at Find a Grave
- "Funeral Tributes To Rosenbergs: Execution Denounced". The Times (London). June 21, 1953.(subscription required)
- Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Glasnost Tapes, translated and edited by Jerrold L Schecter with Vyacheslav V Luchkov, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1990, p. 194.
- McFadden, Robert (September 25, 2008). "Khrushchev on Rosenbergs: Stoking Old Embers". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2008.
Nearly four decades after Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to pass America's atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union, the case that has haunted scholars, historians and partisans of the left and the right has found a new witness: Nikita S. Khrushchev.
- "Venona 1340 New York to Moscow 21 September 1944" (PDF). National Security Agency. 1340 New York to Moscow September 21, 1944
- "Judge hears case for historic Rosenberg spy trial". New York Daily News. Associated Press. July 22, 2008. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
- Watt, Holly (September 12, 2008). "Witness Changed Her Story During Rosenberg Spy Case". The Washington Post.
- Morton Sobell (September 19, 2008). "LETTER; The Rosenberg Case". The New York Times.
- "New Rosenberg Grand Jury Testimony Released!". National Security Archive. July 15, 2015. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
- "Rosenberg Grand Jury Files Released". National Security Archive. September 11, 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
- "The Meeropol Brothers: Exonerate Our Mother, Ethel Rosenberg". The New York Times. August 10, 2015. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
- "Exonerate our Mother, Ethel Rosenberg". Rosenberg Fund for Children. March 1, 2016. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
- Roberts, Sam (September 16, 2008). "Father Was a Spy, Sons Conclude With Regret". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2008.
Now, confronted with the surprising confession last week of Morton Sobell, Julius Rosenberg's City College classmate and co-defendant, the brothers have admitted to a painful conclusion: that their father was a spy.
- "My Parents Were Executed Under the Unconstitutional Espionage Act". Democracy Now!. December 30, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
- "Sundance: Heir To An Execution". CBS News. January 20, 2004. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
- Ethel Rosenberg at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Bell Jar: Essay Q&A". Novelguide.com. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
- Rosenberg Memorial, Havana
- Feklisov, Aleksandr, and Kostin, Sergei. The Man Behind the Rosenbergs. Enigma Books, 2003. ISBN 978-1-929631-24-7.
- Roberts, Sam. The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case. Random House, 2001. ISBN 0-375-76124-1.
- Schneir, Walter, and Scheir, Miriam. Invitation to an Inquest. Pantheon Books, 1983. ISBN 0-394-71496-2.
- Schrecker, Ellen. Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown and Company, 1998. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.
- (French) Florin Aftalion, La Trahison des Rosenberg, JC Lattès, Paris, 2003.
- Alman, Emily A. and David. Exoneration: The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell – Prosecutorial deceptions, suborned perjuries, anti-Semitism, and precedent for today's unconstitutional trials. Green Elms Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9779058-3-6 or ISBN 0-9779058-3-7.
- (English) Virginia Carmichael, Framing history: the Rosenberg story and the Cold War, University of Minnesota Press, 1993.
- (French) E. L. Doctorow, Le Livre de Daniel, Robert Laffont, 1980, ISBN 978-2-221-00506-4.
- (English) E. L. Doctorow. The Book of Daniel. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8129-7817-9.
- (French) Howard Fast, Mémoire d'un Rouge, éd. Payot & Rivage. Intéressant, traite de toute la période de l'avant seconde guerre mondiale et après (MacCarthysme, etc.) aux États-Unis. Nombreux témoignages. Plusieurs passages sur les Rosenberg notamment page 349 à 359.
- (English) Alvin H. Goldstein, The Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, 1975. ISBN 978-0-88208-052-9.
- Harris, "Brian, Injustice", Sutton Publishing. 2006. ISBN 0-7509-4021-2 (An examination of the trial)
- Hornblum, Allen M. The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb, Yale University Press 2010. ISBN 0-300-15676-6
- (French) Gérard A. Jaeger, Les Rosenberg. La chaise électrique pour délit d'opinion, Le Félin, 2003.
- Meeropol, Michael, ed. The Rosenberg Letters: A Complete Edition of the Prison Correspondence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. New York: Garland Publishing, 1994. ISBN 0-8240-5948-4.
- Meeropol, Robert and Michael. We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. University of Illinois Press, 1986. ISBN 0-252-01263-1. Chapter 15 is a detailed refutation of Radosh and Milton's scholarship.
- Meeropol, Robert Meeropol. An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey. St. Martin's Press, 2003. ISBN 0-312-30637-7.
- Nason, Tema. Ethel: The Fictional Autobiography of Ethel Rosenberg. Delacourt, 1990. ISBN 0-440-21110-7 and by Syracuse, 2002, ISBN 0-8156-0745-8.
- "David Greenglass grand jury testimony transcript" (PDF). National Security Archive, Gelman Library, George Washington University. August 7, 1950. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
- Radosh, Ronald and Joyce Milton. The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth. Henry Holt (1983). ISBN 0-03-049036-7.
- Roberts, Sam. The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case, Random House, 2003, ISBN 0-375-76124-1.
- Roberts, Sam (July 15, 2015). "Secret Grand Jury Testimony From Ethel Rosenberg’s Brother Is Released". The New York Times. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
- (English) Sam Roberts, The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair, Random House, 2001. ISBN 978-0-375-50013-8.
- (French) Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Lettres de la maison de la mort, Gallimard, 1953.
- (English) Walter Schneir & Miriam Schneir, Invitation to an Inquest: Reopening the Rosenberg Case, 1973. ISBN 978-0-14-003333-5.
- Schneir, Walter. Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case, Melville House, 2010. ISBN 1-935554-16-6.
- (French) Morton Sobell, On condamne bien les innocents, Hier et demain, 1974.
- Trahair, Richard C.S. and Robert Miller. Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. Enigma Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-929631-75-9.
- Wexley, John. The Judgment of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Ballantine Books, 1977. ISBN 0-345-24869-4.
- Yalkowsky, Stanley (July 1990). The Murder of the Rosenbergs. Crucible Publications. ISBN 978-0-9620984-2-0.
- Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. page 434.
- (English) Sidney Zion, The autobiography of Roy Cohn, Lyle Stuart Inc, 1988. ISBN 0-8184-0471-X.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rosenberg trial.|
- Guide to the Playscript about the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Espionage Trial. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
- An Interactive Rosenberg Espionage Ring Timeline and Archive
- Timeline of Events Relating to the Rosenberg Trial.
- Rosenberg trial transcript (excerpts as HTML, and the entire 2,563 page transcript as a PDF file)
- Ethel's brother says he trumped up evidence.
- Documents relating to the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
- Project Venona messages.
- Rosenberg FBI files (summary only)
- Heir to an Execution — An HBO documentary by Ivy Meeropol, the granddaughter of Ethel and Julius.
- A statement by the Rosenberg's sons in support of their exoneration
- An Interview with Robert Meeropol about the adoption
- National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case
- Annotated bibliography for Ethel Rosenberg from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
- Annotated bibliography for Julius Rosenberg from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
- The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) for Alexander Vassiliev's Notebooks
- Rosenberg Son: "My Parents Were Executed Under the Unconstitutional Espionage Act"—video report by Democracy Now!
- History on Trial: The Rosenberg Case in E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel by Santiago Juan-Navarro from The Grove: Working Papers on English Studies, Vol 6, 1999.
- Julius Rosenberg at court sentenced to death
- The WSWS speaks to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s son - An interview with Robert Meeropol