January 14, 2012 by staff
Rosenberg Trial, Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (September 28, 1915 – June 19, 1953) and Julius Rosenberg (May 12, 1918 – June 19, 1953) were Jewish American communists who were convicted and executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage during a time of war. The charges related to their passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. This was the first execution of civilians for espionage in United States history.
In 1995, the U.S. government released a series of decoded Soviet cables, codenamed VENONA, which supported courtroom testimony that Julius acted as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets, but cast doubt on the level of Ethel’s involvement. The decision to execute the Rosenbergs was, and still is, controversial. The New York Times, in an editorial on the 50th anniversary of the execution (June 19, 2003) wrote, “The Rosenberg case still haunts American history, reminding us of the injustice that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria.” This hysteria had both an immediate and a lasting effect; many innocent scientists, including some who were virulently anti-communist, were investigated simply for having the last name “Rosenberg.” The other atomic spies who were caught by the FBI offered confessions and were not executed. Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, who supplied documents to Julius from Los Alamos, served 10 years of his 15-year sentence. Harry Gold, who identified Greenglass, served 15 years in Federal prison as the courier for Greenglass and the German scientist, Klaus Fuchs. 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 confirmed Julius Rosenberg was “in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information and what the American government described as the secret to the atomic bomb.”
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