Michael Meeropol at the Left Forum (NYC) in 2011
March 10, 1943
Michael Meeropol (born Michael Rosenberg on March 10, 1943) is a retired professor of economics. He is the older son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Born in New York City, as Michael Rosenberg, Meeropol spent his early childhood living in New York and attending local school there. His father Julius, an electrical engineer, was a member of the Communist Party and a Soviet spy. His mother Ethel (née Greenglass), a union organizer, was also active in the Communist Party was aware of her husband's espionage activity but did not participate. (Key evidence: she was never given a code name.) Michael and his brother Robert believe she stayed out of it as an "insurance" policy --- if Julius were arrested she could take care of the children. When Michael was seven years old, his parents were arrested. In 1953, they were convicted and executed for conspiracy to commit espionage and passing secrets to the Soviet Union.
During the trial, Michael and his younger brother Robert lived first with their maternal grandmother, Tessie Greenglass (until November 1950). She placed them in a children's shelter, the Hebrew Children's Home, in the Bronx where they stayed through the period of the trial (until June 1951). Their paternal grandmother, Sophie Rosenberg, had them live with her in upper Manhattan (until June 1952). Next they were taken care of by family friends, Ben and Sonia Bach in Toms River, New Jersey, from June 1952 until the December after their parents' executions (June 19, 1953). The school superintendent "turned the boys away as non-residents."
Later family life and education
The brothers were eventually adopted by the lyricist, librettist, and musician Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne, whose first children had been stillborn. Taking their last name, Michael and Robert grew up first in Manhattan and then (after 1961) in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
Michael graduated from Swarthmore College, before going on to graduate work at King's College, Cambridge University. He did his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he received his PhD in Economics in 1973.
Meeropol eventually became an economist, teaching at Western New England College -- now University. In 1998 he authored Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution. Many of his articles have advocated liberal to left-wing economic policies, including, in 2005, his opposition to the Bush administration's efforts to partially privatize Social Security. Since September 2006 he has been a monthly commentator on the Albany NPR-affiliate WAMC radio.
He and his brother Robert have written about their parents as well as participating in documentaries about them. Together they wrote We Are Your Sons (1975). A second edition was published in 1986 (University of Illinois Press) with three new chapters, including a refutation of the book, The Rosenberg File. Meeropol said that even though they got it "right" about the (partial) guilt of Julius Rosenberg, Michael Meeropol said they were "right" like a stopped clock is right twice a day.
Meeropol separately edited a complete edition of his parents' prison correspondence, The Rosenberg Letters (1994). Though currently not speaking in public about his parents' case as much as his brother, he remains a strong advocate for his parents. His daughter Ivy Meeropol used his comments in her documentary, Heir to an Execution, which was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004 and shown extensively on HBO that June.
Meeropol retired as Professor of Economics and chair of the department at Western New England University, a small private college in Springfield, Massachusetts in December of 2008. He then worked four of the next five years at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York teaching economics and interdisciplinary studies. He taught his last class at John Jay in May of 2014.
In 2013, he co-authored a textbook, Principles Of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.
Since 2005 he has been a regular commentator on WAMC-FM, the NPR station in Albany, NY.
Marriage and family
Meeropol is married to Ann Karus Meeropol. They have two children, Ivy and Greg, and two grandchildren.
Current position on parents' executions
In 2008, after the Rosenberg co-defendant Morton Sobell admitted that he and Julius Rosenberg had engaged in espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union during World War II, Michael and Robert Meeropol agreed that their father was a Soviet spy. But, they reiterated what they perceived to be the failures of the government prosecution: "[W]hatever 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." A month later, the brothers published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times stating that Sobell's confession revealed no detail about the theft of the atom bomb design. They noted that the witness Ruth Greenglass' recently released Grand Jury testimony said nothing about Ethel Rosenberg's alleged spying activities, for which the government convicted her.
The Meeropol brothers have endorsed the conclusions of Walter Schneir, in his posthumously published book Final Verdict, that Greenglass's version of events was concocted – that Julius Rosenberg had been given a "pink slip" (termination notice) by the KGB in early 1945 and thus was out of the espionage loop when a cross-section drawing of an implosion-type atomic bomb (exhibit 8 at the Rosenberg Trial) was passed to the Soviets. Schneir said that David and/or Ruth Greenglass turned that drawing and descriptive material over to a KGB agent in December 1945 – not, as testified at the trial, to Julius Rosenberg in September 1945.
In 2015 after the death of David Greenglass, his secret Grand Jury testimony was released. Claiming that that testimony supported their view that their mother was not an espionage agent (twice Greenglass under oath before the Grand Jury asserted he had never spoken with his sister about any of his espionage activities with Julius Rosenberg or Ruth Greenglass) the brothers Meeropol wrote an OP ED in the New York Times demanding that the US government exonerate their mother. On September 28, 2015, the date that would have been Ethel Rosenberg's 100th birthday, the brothers and 8 members of their extended families (including one great grandchild of the Rosenbergs) gathered on the steps of New York's City Hall to receive two proclamations - one by 13 City Council members and one by the Borough President of Manhattan honoring Ethel Rosenberg and decrying her reputedly unjust conviction and execution.
Meeropol and his brother Robert appeared on the CBS newsmagazine show 60 Minutes in the Fall of 2016 arguing that their mother deserved exoneration because of the recent release of Grand Jury testimony by her chief accuser, David Greenglass which directly contradicted his trial testimony against her. They have submitted requests to President Obama for a proclamation to in effect nullify the original Jury Verdict because of the perjuries involved in the government's case against her. This request was accompanied by the documents including Grand Jury minutes supporting their arguments. On December 1, 2016 Meeropol and his brother Robert stood outside the White House gate to symbolically recreate the effort they engaged in back in 1953 when Michael delivered a handwritten letter to President Eisenhower to a White House guard.
- R. Z. Sheppard, "Books: Generation on Trial?", review of We Are Your Sons, TIME Magazine, May 5, 1975
- Marxism mailing list archive: The Rosenbergs
- Howard J Sherman; Michael Meeropol (2013). Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies. M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 9780765636119. OCLC 822028601.
- Roberts, Sam (September 16, 2008). "Father Was a Spy, Sons Conclude With Regret". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
- "Grand Jury Testimony of Ruth Greenglass" (PDF). National Security Archive.
- Michael Meeropol and Robert Meeropol, "The essential lessons of the Rosenberg case", Los Angeles Times, 5 October 2008
- "Michael and Robert Meeropol", Biographies of Key Figures in the Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, University of Missouri-Kansas City
- Michael Meeropol at WNEU
- Robert Meeropol, An Execution in the Family, First Chapters, New York Times, September 21, 2003
- Bootie Cosgrove-Mather, "Sundance: Heir To An Execution, Granddaughter Of Julius And Ethel Rosenberg Revisits Their Legacy", CBS News, 20 January 2004
- "SECRETS, LIES, AND ATOMIC SPIES", PBS Transcript, Airdate: February 5, 2002
- "Exonerate Our Mother" NYTimes, August 10. 2015