Why Were the Rosenbergs Executed?

Why Were the Rosenbergs Executed?

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Few death-penalty executions can equal the controversy created by the electrocutions of spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953. Accused of overseeing a spy network that stole American atomic secrets and handing those over to the Soviet Union, the couple were the only spies executed during the Cold War.

But were they guilty? For some, that has been in dispute for more than half a century.

Julius Rosenberg was almost certainly guilty.

By most accounts, Julius Rosenberg was an enthusiastic Communist. His job at the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories made him an enticing recruit for Soviet spies, who approached him on Labor Day, 1942.

Late in 1944, Julius became a recruiter for the Russians and oversaw several spies himself, including the one who would cause Julius’ downfall: his brother-in-law David Greenglass. Greenglass worked on the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

After the ring was uncovered, Greenglass was arrested on June 15, 1950. He named his wife as a co-conspirator, along with Julius. Greenglass originally denied his sister Ethel was involved, but later changed his story.

Ethel Rosenberg was arrested on the courthouse steps.

Soon after, the FBI raided the Rosenberg home and arrested Julius. Ethel was later arrested while leaving a federal courthouse in New York City after testifying she had no knowledge of espionage efforts. The FBI hoped her arrest would force Julius to name names of other Communist sympathizers.

Greenglass later told New York Times journalist Sam Roberts that he had entered into a deal with the government, implicating his sister in exchange for his wife’s immunity.

The Rosenbergs and Greenglass were all found guilty.

Sentencing guidelines gave the judge two choices for Julius and Ethel: 30 years imprisonment or execution. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover suggested a 30-year sentence for Ethel, believing she would eventually name names in jail.

But Judge Irving Kaufman chose death for both Rosenbergs. David Greenglass got a 15-year sentence, serving just over nine years.

The Rosenbergs were executed by electric on June 19, 1953, at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York.

Cold War paranoia influenced the proceedings.

One reason for the lasting controversy about the case is due to the perceived harshness of the sentencing. Dr. Arne Kislenko, professor of history at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, sees the convictions as coded to a time when the United States wanted to look strong on Soviet aggression around the world, particularly during the Korean War.

“Needless to say, it was also a bit of pander to the increasingly vitriolic anti-communism of the period, mostly coming from Joseph McCarthy and his associates,” Kislenko says.

There has been continued doubt specifically about Ethel’s role in the spy scheme. In 2016, the Rosenberg’s sons asked President Barack Obama to pardon their mother.

“Ethel’s guilt remains a question because of a lack of documentation, both in terms of proofs offered during and after her conviction in the U.S. and in Soviet documents released decades later,” explains Kislenko. “That said, most historians think she was guilty.”

Was justice served in the Rosenberg trial?

Kislenko points out that conspirator Morton Sobell corroborated Ethel’s involvement in 2008. Also, subsequently released Soviet KGB documents portray Ethel as a prominent participant in her husband’s activities.

“My view is that she was most certainly in-the-know about her husband’s activities and, again persuaded by KGB documentation, that she played a more active role than imagined by her defenders,” says Kislenko.

Nonetheless, Kislenko has reservations about how justice was served. “I hold fast to the fact that her trial, like Julius’s, was handled terribly with many improprieties so bad that they should never have been convicted, let alone executed.”

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg ( née Greenglass) were American citizens who were convicted of spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. The couple were accused of providing top-secret information about radar, sonar, jet propulsion engines and valuable nuclear weapon designs (at that time the United States was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons). Convicted of espionage in 1951, they were executed by the federal government of the United States in 1953 in the Sing Sing correctional facility in Ossining, New York, becoming the first American civilians to be executed for such charges and the first to suffer that penalty during peacetime. [1] [2] [3] [4]

  • Julius
    ( 1918-05-12 ) May 12, 1918
    Manhattan, New York, U.S.
  • Ethel
    Ethel Greenglass
    ( 1915-09-28 ) September 28, 1915
    Manhattan, New York, U.S.
  • Julius
    June 19, 1953 (1953-06-19) (aged 35)
    Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York, U.S.
  • Ethel
    June 19, 1953 (1953-06-19) (aged 37)
    Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York, U.S.

Other convicted co-conspirators were sentenced to prison, including Ethel's brother, David Greenglass (who had made a plea agreement), Harry Gold, and Morton Sobell. Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist working in Los Alamos, was convicted in the United Kingdom. [5] [6]

For decades, the Rosenbergs' sons (Michael and Robert Meeropol) and many other defenders maintained that Julius and Ethel were innocent of spying on their country and were victims of Cold War paranoia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, much information concerning them was declassified, including a trove of decoded Soviet cables (code-name: Venona), which detailed Julius's role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets. Ethel's role was as an accessory who helped recruit her brother David into the spy ring and who worked in a secretarial manner typing up documents for her husband that were then given to the Soviets. In 2008, the National Archives of the United States published most of the grand jury testimony related to the prosecution of the Rosenbergs.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: Why were they executed? Would it happen today?

In the 1930s and '40s, Julius Rosenberg worked as an electrical engineer. The woman who would become his wife, Ethel Greenglass, was a clerk for a shipping company.

The two met on Dec. 31, 1938, as Ethel, a woman who loved to sing, was waiting to go on stage at a New Year's Eve benefit show Rosenberg was attending.

Rosenberg was smitten by Greenglass, and the two married months later in the summer of 1939.

The couple seemed to live a typical early 1940s American life, rearing two sons in New York. But their lives were anything but typical as the second World War began.

Amid the patriotic fervor that swept the country during the darkest of times in the early days of World War II, the Rosenbergs' loyalties were anything but Main Street American leanings.

Julius and Ethel were devoted members of the Communist Party – so devoted, that they spied for the Soviet Union, turning over secrets to the most devastating weapon the world has ever seen – the atomic bomb.

Sixty-six years ago, on June 19, 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed in New York's Sing Sing prison, the first American civilians put to death for selling government secrets during wartime.

Here's a look at their story.

What did they do that led to their execution?

The couple sold top-secret plans for building a nuclear weapon to the Soviet Union. At the time, the United States was the only country that had plans for a working atomic bomb.

As teenagers and young adults both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had Communist leanings, and by the time they met in the late 1930s, they had become full-fledged members of the Communist party.

In 1940, after World War II had started in Europe, Julius became an engineer-inspector stationed at the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratory in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

According to many accounts, he was recruited by the Soviet Secret Police in 1942 and asked to steal research and plans for projects like America's new guided missile control system, a system that was being developed at Fort Monmouth.

Rosenberg, according to testimony at his trial, provided the Soviet Union with thousands of classified reports up until his firing in 1945 when the U.S. Army discovered his ties with the Communist Party.

How did the spy ring work?

The Rosenbergs were part of a spy ring that included Ethel's brother, David Greenglass. Greenglass was a machinist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. That lab was where most of the planning, design and experiments took place for the first nuclear bomb the United States produced.

Greenglass would steal information from the lab and turn it over to Julius who, in turn, turned it over to Harry Gold, a Soviet spy.

Gold would then give the information to Anatoly Yatskow, the Soviet General Counsel, who lived in New York City.

Gold was arrested after he was implicated by a spy named Klaus Fuchs. Fuchs was arrested on charges he spied for the Soviet Union, and confessed to stealing secrets about the Manhattan project, the project to build the first atomic bomb.

Fuchs implicated Gold, who soon after turned on Greenglass. Greenglass was arrested, and while he was being interrogated he told authorities that his sister and brother-in-law were part of the ring, too.

Julius Rosenberg was arrested on July 17, 1950. Ethel was arrested in a few weeks later in August.

What happened at trial?

The couple's trial began on March 6, 1951. The prosecution's star witness was Greenglass. He told the court that Julius had been a long-time spy, including during the war years, and that Ethel helped by typing up information that Julius had stolen.

The Rosenbergs were convicted on March 29.

On April 5, they were sentenced to death.

The couple filed seven appeals over a two-year period. Each one failed.

They asked two presidents for clemency – Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower – and were turned down by both.

After a little more than two years on death row in Sing Sing Prison in New York, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953.

Julius, 35, was brought into the chamber first, around 7:50 p.m. He was strapped into the electric chair, and after three shocks he was declared dead at 8 p.m.

Ethel, 37, was led into the death chamber after her husband had been taken from the room. Before she sat down in the chair, according to reports, she kissed the prison matron goodbye. Ethel Rosenberg received five shocks before she was declared dead at 8:16 p.m.

The two did not speak to each other in the moments before they were executed.

Prior to the execution, Albert Einstein, the man who discovered most of the science that allowed researchers to produce a nuclear weapon, asked for clemency for the pair.

What about the others?

None of the other members of the spy ring were executed for their crimes.

Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, was convicted of spying and served a 15-year term. He died in 2014.

Harry Gold was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was paroled after 14 years. He died in 1972.

Morton Sobell, who was part of the spy ring along with the Rosenbergs, was arrested and convicted of espionage. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released after 18 years. He died on Dec. 26, 2018. He was 101 years old.

For years, supporters of the Rosenbergs claimed they were innocent and had been railroaded at trial. During the years since the Rosenbergs were executed, there have been many documentaries, books and scholarly articles that claim the couple and the others in the ring were innocent.

However, on at least two occasions, Sobell admitted that he was a Soviet spy as was Gold, Greenglass and the Rosenbergs.

Orphaned after their parents were executed for espionage, the story of the Rosenberg boys is one all Americans should know.

The left would go crazy over Jewish American dissidents Abel and Anne Meeropol if they were alive today. Their tale is a radical epic so poignant that one wonders where the 10-part miniseries is. It covers a range of contemporary themes: children separated from parents, the political persecution of dissidents, and social justice warriors doing battle against a racist, xenophobic, increasingly fascistic America.

It’s a story so fantastical, and containing so many celebrated names, that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t stuck better into the mainstream. Then again, a tale involving judicial executions on fake charges of espionage and the heroism of Jewish and Black radicals probably wouldn’t get the prestige TV greenlight. The only way the Meeropols’ story would get approved by network executives is if it were pitched by someone like Aaron Sorkin—who would no doubt fill his script with speechifying neoliberals.

While Hollywood isn’t going to tell the real story of the Meeropols anytime soon, if I were to make that TV series, I would open it on a party scene in the front parlor of a Brooklyn brownstone. The room is decorated for Christmas. The house belongs to Black socialist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. It’s December 1953.

At the party, perhaps standing off to the side of the partygoers, is the poet-songwriter Abel Meeropol (also known by his pen name, Lewis Allan), the author of famous anti-lynching song, “Strange Fruit.” He stands beside his wife, Anne Meeropol, a public school teacher and union organizer. They are waiting patiently for the orphaned sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to arrive. Abel and Anne are going to be their new parents.

“We were told that we were going to go live with them,” Robert Meeropol, the youngest son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, recently told me of meeting his adoptive parents for the first time. “At that point we had been shuttled around so much… we said OK.”

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were the first U.S. civilians to be executed for espionage during peacetime. Their sons, Robert and Michael, were three and seven when their parents were arrested in 1950 after being accused of sharing nuclear secrets with the Soviets. During their parents’ imprisonment, the boys lived with their grandparents, spent a brief period in an orphanage, and finally were sent out of New York City to the home of family friends in Toms River, New Jersey. It was here that a news bulletin interrupting their Yankees game informed them of the hour of their parents’ impending execution. By 1953, photographs of Robert and Michael Rosenberg, in suits and Brooklyn Dodgers caps, had been plastered across newspapers for three years. They were the famous sons of communist spies.

How Robert and Michael were going to live—and who they were going to live with—remained an open question after their parents were executed. Emanuel Hirsch Bloch, the Rosenbergs’ lawyer and a renowned left-wing defense attorney who had defended numerous people accused of communist sympathies, acted temporarily as their guardian. Bloch was informed of the Meeropols’ request to adopt the boys through Shirley Graham Du Bois, wife of W.E.B. Du Bois. She was one of the trustees of the fund that was raised for Robert and Michael’s upbringing.

In our phone interview in September 2020, Robert Meeropol spoke to me for over an hour, with tremendous fluidity and frankness, about the circumstances surrounding his parents’ execution and how he and his brother were adopted by the Meeropols.

Manny [Emanuel Hirsch] Bloch knew about Abel’s reputation as the author of “Strange Fruit” and knew that Abel and Anne were both supportive of my birth parents, Robert Meeropol told me. So, he met them, he liked them, and he said, “OK, you can adopt them!”

The Rosenbergs were executed June 19, 1953. Michael and Robert Rosenberg went to live with the Meeropols in January of 1954. However, before the adoption had been formalized, Bloch suffered a heart attack and died.

“At that point, right-wing groups tried to have us taken from Abel and Anne, and a court custody battle developed,” Robert Meeropol told me. “We were actually seized by New York City police and sent to an orphanage. But the Meeropols won the legal battle and we were reunited with them in the fall of 1954. We dropped from public sight and within a couple of years our names were changed to Meeropol.”

It is this part of the story, the part about the left showing deep care for their own, that I might seize on for my imaginary prestige TV show. My story would begin with the Christmas party at the Du Bois’ and end with Robert and Michael being reunited with the Meeropols, after they had won their legal battle. My story would focus not on the government’s case against the Rosenbergs, nor Bloch’s defense. I would sidestep David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother who implicated her and Julius in the spy ring, and on whose testimony much of the evidence in the case relied. I actually wouldn’t approach the trial or the appeals much at all. This material has been combed over in countless books and articles. It’s even been fictionalized by E.L. Doctorow in The Book of Daniel (a beautiful example of navel-gazing Sorkinesque white guy writing if there ever was one). I’d stroll around that material, which I believe has been over examined and lost much of its humanity.

I would instead focus my story on the left-wing community in New York City who rallied around the Rosenberg family. I would zero in on the interconnected network of unions, socialist organizations, and civil rights groups that events like the execution of the Rosenbergs left in tatters.

Abel and Anne Meeropol deciding to adopt the sons of the Rosenbergs, and their being in a position to actually do so, was one of those convergences so poetic it doesn’t seem real. It’s as if a DSA member on Twitter were writing left-wing fan fiction. The sons of accused spies, taken under the wings of famous civil rights icons, wind up in the care of radical artists and activists. It’s easier to think of the story as a Coen Brothers film (I’m seeing John Turturro and Frances McDormand cast as the Meeropols) than as history.

Perhaps you’ve already guessed the secret behind this odd convergence of people. Perhaps you already know what the Du Bois’, the Meeropols, and the Rosenbergs all had in common. Maybe you already know that these people flew in the same circles because they were at some point either members of the Communist Party or, at the very least, friendly to the socialist cause in America.

Like many artistic New York City lefties, the Meeropols joined the Communist Party in the 1930s. The Party at the time was a hotbed of creative activity. It encouraged cultural work and supported artists through organizations like John Reed Clubs for writers and the Pierre Degeyter Club for musicians.

Abel was a public school English teacher (he taught a young James Baldwin at Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in the early 1940s) who gave half his salary to the Communist Party. He wrote songs for left-wing reviews that were supported by or in the orbit of the Party. He barely escaped blacklisting by changing jobs, moving around the country, and lying and obfuscating when interrogated by government agents. Robert Meeropol suspects that Abel and Anne only quit the Party in order to adopt him and his brother. They remained friendly with Party members throughout his childhood.

In the 1930s, the Communist Party USA swelled to about 80,000 members at the height of its popularity. It was in this era that an up-and-coming jazz singer named Billie Holiday was introduced to Abel Meeropol at Café Society, the first integrated nightclub in New York City. There she first sang his song “Strange Fruit” to hushed and astonished audiences.

Abel had written “Strange Fruit” when the left was rallying in support of an anti-lynching bill in the Senate. It first appeared as a poem, “Bitter Fruit,” in the New York Teacher, a publication for the New York City Teachers Union. The song consists of 12 lines comparing a southern idyll (“Pastoral scene of the gallant South”) with a brutal lynching (“The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth”). Abel had a spare, imagistic style and could use simple language to devastating emotional effect. His type of artistry was ideal for writing politically powerful songs.

“Abel was no turn-the-other-cheek liberal,” said Robert Meeropol. “A lot of what he wrote was biting satire and had a nasty edge to it. ‘Strange Fruit’ has often been described as a dirge-like ballad. I think that misses the truth. The point of ‘Strange Fruit’ was that it was an attack song. It was an attack on the perpetrators of lynching.”

It was also in this period that Abel Meeropol wrote the poem, “Beloved Comrade.” The poem, at eight lines, is even shorter and sparer than “Strange Fruit.” Addressing a dead friend (“To you, beloved comrade, we make this solemn vow / The fight will go on”), it comforts them in the knowledge that the struggle that they had fought and died for would continue until the final victory (“Sleep well, beloved comrade, our work will just begin / The fight will go on till we win”).

When put to music by composer Fred Katz, “Beloved Comrade” became an anthem sung at socialist funerals. Probably written for Spanish Civil War soldiers from the International Brigades, it was sung by Josh White for Franklin Roosevelt and by Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert in memory of Sacco and Vanzetti (two Italian anarchists framed for murder and executed in 1927). Recently, Sing in Solidarity, a choir composed of members of Democratic Socialists of America (of which I am a member), sang it for the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Abel Meeropol was a communist, “Beloved Comrade” belongs to no faction and has been sung in solidarity by many left-wing movements. Robert Meeropol believes that this is exactly how Abel intended the song to be used.

Leftist solidarity was a theme that ran throughout Abel’s songwriting career and political life. It was also what enabled him and Anne to adopt the sons of the Rosenbergs. As lefty public school teachers, the Meeropols were both heavily involved in the New York City Teachers Union. This was a radical union and many of its members were also members of the Communist Party. It was through the union that they came to know teacher and Party member, Alice Citron. After being blacklisted in the 1940s and fired from her teaching job, Citron went on to work as Shirley Graham Du Bois’ personal secretary. Through this daisy chain of personal ties, the Meeropols were ultimately able to adopt Robert and Michael.

Under constant threat of persecution, the New York City left was necessarily close knit. But there was only so much protection a network of friends could provide each other. In 1945, the Meeropols, fearful of being blacklisted like Alice Citron and so many of their fellow Teachers Union members, left their teaching jobs and took off for Los Angeles. Here, Abel wrote television scripts. He also attended a socialist reading group that the Communist Party ran for Hollywood screenwriters. Robert Meeropol recalls:

They were at this study group reading Lenin or something and Abel raised his hand to the party functionary who was doing the teaching and he said, “I don’t know why I have to read all this stuff. I know who the workers are, I know who the owners are, I know who our allies are, I know who our enemies are, that’s good enough for me!

For his impertinence, Abel got written up by the Party functionary.

According to Robert Meeropol, Abel had a visceral “anger over injustice and a willingness to act upon that.” Alongside these deep feelings also appears to have been a uniquely attuned moral clarity. It was no doubt this same fearless, clearheaded nature that made him write an anti-lynching song at the height of Jim Crow and to adopt the sons of the Rosenbergs at the height of the Cold War. Eventually, it would also lead him to return to the community he’d left behind, blacklists be damned.

The Meeropols were living back in New York City in 1954 when they adopted the Rosenberg boys. Robert and Michael were raised in a loving, quirky, left-wing home. “There was no regular job,” Robert Meeropol recalls. “There was this, that, and the other thing. It was very artistic. There was always a stream of writers and artists and performers coming and visiting. I guess it was a pretty exciting and rich environment for a young kid growing up.” His parents were forever running off to rehearsals and performances of left-wing concerts. Robert Meeropol remembers Malvina Reynolds singing “Little Boxes” on their living room sofa.

The Meeropol boys today are in their 70s. If you didn’t know their back story, they would appear much like the other “red diaper babies” of their generation—that coterie of diehards who protested Vietnam, kept the faith through the dire neoliberal period, and even sent their kids to socialist summer camp. People who grew up on the American left, and especially the Jewish American left, might feel a flicker of recognition at the mention of their birth names. For the rest of us, the saga of the songwriter and the sons of the murdered “spies” seems like a secret history, a potshard buried beneath the sand that speaks of a whole fallen civilization.

I first learned the Meeropols’ story in 2018 when, as a member of Sing in Solidarity, I was taught to sing “Beloved Comrade” for a memorial to Heather Heyer—the young woman murdered in the Charlottesville terror attack in 2017. I was new to the left, having joined DSA after volunteering for Bernie Sanders in 2016. Hearing this story made me feel bound to my new community, and made me think how powerful a collective memory like this can be. It made me feel as if I had just brushed aside half a century’s worth of dust and discovered a part of my own past. I felt rejuvenated and included. It was a little reward for having the faith in humanity that had brought me to the left in the first place.

It also made me think about how small and secretive the left was for so many decades, and in some ways continues to be. My feeling of belonging came part and parcel with a feeling of exclusivity. I had to be initiated and committed to the movement in order to hear these stories. For that movement to grow, however, it needs to be able to tell its stories to the uninitiated. It needs to be able to frame those stories for widespread consumption. The Bernie Sanders campaigns understood that. DSA understands that.

The left, however, is currently small (relatively speaking) and neoliberal cultural hegemony isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In our current moment of widespread helplessness, when narrativizing our past would be a therapeutic and politically expedient practice, left-wing history is instead being rewritten by liberals like Aaron Sorkin. As the tumultuous present unearths the radical past, Hollywood keeps putting out films that capitalize on public interest while propping up existing power structures. Films like Lincoln (2012), On The Basis of Sex (2018), and, most recently, Sorkin’s 2020 drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 lean into top-down proceduralism and emphasize the enduring, unshakeable nature of American institutions. It is vital that the left continue to punch back at these rewritings of radical history. But we also need to do our own storytelling, to make creative narrative works that mythologize our own past.

We can see the current left movement’s need for such works in the wildly successful career of a writer like Sorkin. His show, The West Wing, is admittedly very bad art. However, its delusionally “pragmatic” messaging had a real effect on liberal political discourse and practice. To acknowledge this fact is to acknowledge the need for ambitious left-wing storytelling that can act as a counternarrative. Before Sorkin produces his take on the Rosenbergs, and we have to endure a walk and talk between Roy Cohn and Joseph McCarthy, I think it’s time to start sharing our own history.

To be sure, rebuilding those links in the chain of memory and teasing out the secrets of the American left won’t be an easy task. Crowdsourcing funds for left-wing art won’t be an easy task either. It is also not an impossible one, as the existence of independent left media (like this magazine) proves. The new movement needs its own works of art, and the means to make those works are within reach. It is long past time that we claimed our past, and publicly narrated our stories—stories like Abel and Anne Meeropol’s—and won back the (currently Sorkinized) political ground in the popular imagination.

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (d 1953)

Julius Rosenberg was born on May 12, 1918, in New York. He graduated from the City College of New York with a degree in electrical engineering in 1939 and in 1940 joined the Army Signal Corps where he worked on radar equipment. He became a leader in the Young Communist League, where he met Ethel in 1936, before marrying her three years later.

Ethel Greenglass was born on September 28, 1915, in New York. She 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 first met Julius. The Rosenbergs had two sons, Robert and Michael.

In 1942, Julius and Ethel became full members in the American Communist Party. By 1943, however, the Rosenbergs dropped out of the Communist Party to pursue Julius's espionage activities. Early in 1945, Julius was fired from his job with the Signal Corps when his past membership in the Communist Party came to light. On June 17, 1950, Julius Rosenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage after having been named by Sgt. David Greenglass, Ethel's younger brother and a former machinist at Los Alamos, who also confessed to passing secret information to the USSR through a courier, Harry Gold. On August 11, 1950, Ethel was arrested.

The trial against the Rosenbergs began on March 6, 1951. From the beginning, the trial attracted a high amount of media attention and generated a largely polarized response from observers, some of whom believed the Rosenbergs to be clearly guilty, and others who asserted their innocence.

The prosecution's primary witness, David Greenglass, stated that Ethel, working as a "probationer," had typed notes containing U.S. nuclear secrets, and these were later turned over to Harry Gold, who would then turn them over to Anatoly A. Yakovlev, the Soviet vice consul in New York City. Both Rosenbergs asserted their right under the Fifth Amendment not to incriminate themselves whenever asked about their involvement in the Communist Party of with its members.

The Rosenbergs were convicted on March 29, 1951, and sentenced to death under Section 2 of the Espionage Act. The couple were the only two American civilians to be executed for espionage-related activity during the Cold War. Judge Kaufman noted that he held them responsible not only for espionage but also for the deaths of the Korean War, since the information leaked to the Russians was believed to help them develop the A-bomb and stimulate Communist aggression in Korea. Their case has been at the center of the controversy over communism in the United States ever since.

The Rosenbergs stoically maintained their innocence throughout the length of the trial and appeals. They were executed by the electric chair on June 19, 1953.

The Rosenbergs Were Executed For Spying in 1953. Can Their Sons Reveal The Truth?

. lied about my parents?” he asks. They constantly question their own memories of the past. Robert says that when he thinks of his family before his parents were arrested he has, “this feeling of a golden age, of a wonderful loving family before it was ripped apart. But is that just fantasy?”

. lied about my parents?” he asks. They constantly question their own memories of the past. Robert says that when he thinks of his family before his parents were arrested he has, “this feeling of a golden age, of a wonderful loving family before it was ripped apart. But is that just fantasy?”

Ethel has long been portrayed as a cold woman, one who, as Kaufman said in his sentencing, loved communism more than her children. In reality, as Sebba reveals in her book, she was a particularly devoted mother, with a progressive interest in child psychology. Before her arrest, she regularly saw a child therapist, Elizabeth Phillips, for help with Michael and to learn how to be a better mother. During her three years in prison, she faithfully kept up her subscription to Parents magazine. But when she was arrested, all the aspirations she had harboured for giving her boys the kind of happy childhood that had been denied to her imploded spectacularly. At first the boys lived with her mother, Tessie, who made no secret of her resentment of the situation. Things got even worse when they were put in a children’s home. Eventually, Julius’s mother, Sophie, took them in, but two little boys were too much for their frail grandmother to handle. None of their many aunts or uncles would take them, either because they sided with David and Ruth, or they were scared. So they were shipped around to various families. All Ethel could do was write letters to her lawyer, Manny Bloch, desperately laying out her parenting theories in the hope they would somehow be followed (“One cannot behave inconsistently with children… ”) For the sake of the boys, she always maintained a happy front when they visited.

“We always had a good time on the prison visits: singing, talking, enjoying ourselves,” says Michael. He even used to play hangman with his father, although he didn’t realise the irony until he was an adult.

The US government said that if Julius gave them names of other spies, and he and Ethel admitted their guilt, their lives would be spared. The Rosenbergs issued a public statement: “By asking us to repudiate the truth of our innocence, the government admits its own doubts concerning our guilt… we will not be coerced, even under pain of death, to bear false witness.” On 16 June 1953, the children were brought to Sing Sing prison in New York State to say goodbye to their parents. Ethel kept up her usual brave appearance, but on this occasion Michael – who was 10 and understood what was happening – was upset by her outward calm. Afterwards, Ethel wrote a letter to her children: “Maybe you thought that I didn’t feel like crying when we were hugging and kissing goodbye huh… Darlings, that would have been so easy, far too easy on myself… because I love you more than I love myself and because I knew you needed that love far more than I needed the relief of crying.” On 19 June, Ethel and Julius wrote their last letter to their children: “We wish we might have had the tremendous joy and gratification of living our lives out with you… Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience. We press you close and kiss you with all our strength. Lovingly, Daddy and Mommy.” Just after 8pm that day, the Rosenbergs were executed. They were buried on Long Island, in one of the few Jewish cemeteries that would accept their bodies.

With their extended family still unwilling to look after them (“People later said to me, ‘A Jewish family and no family members took in the kids?!’” says Michael wryly), the boys were eventually adopted by Abel and Anne Meeropol, an older leftwing couple. They could finally grow up in .

The execution of this couple is a typical example of the punishement toward those who have betrayed to their countries. It seems to be a proper decision back to the era that is sentimental about these kinds of issues, so people would wonder if execution will be appropriate for recent days. My opinion is no matter which kind of circumstance we are in, we should insist the loyalty to our country. So the betrayal of the country is unacceptable, people must be punished with the price of losing their lives, so that there will be an alarm for the citizens.

Actually, I think the Rosenberg’s couple was the victim of cold war. At that moment, all the people were immersed in McCarthyism atmosphere. l cannot promise Rosenberg’s couple were innocent, but I think they should be executed after enough proof. The judge were not supposed to determine they by David granolas testimony only. The judge should not be affected by emotion and other unrelated points. The last point what l want to say is l respect couple’s integrity, but we should be loyal to out country.

I think they shouldn’t get executed because of three reasons. First, nobody was sure what happened. Second, if what the count was suspected was true, they should be in prison, but not killed. Nothing is more important than life, even the most important in a country. They could get punished in prison. Besides, maybe we can dig someone else through them if they were spies. So we had no reasons to kill them. That was mistake that should be admitted by the United State.

I think they ought not to get executed. First, at that time, Cold War is proceed, and the international situation is very tense. Second, nobody have any definite evidence to prove that they are spies, so I think they need to go to jail but not killed. Thus, in my opinion, it is wrong example because Rosenbergs is a mistake and I know this is a product of Cold War.

In my opinion, they should not get executed. The first reason is this case was lack of evidence, Rosenbergs may be innocent. The second reason is if they were spies, they were also the victims of the Cold War. They did not do the wrong things. That were their jobs. The third reason is execution is too hard for spies. Spies does not kill others or hurt the societies. They just work for other countries. So I think Rosenbergs should not get executed.

Treason is one of the worst case you want to get into, especially at the point of the Red Scare. I do not tolerate treason, but I do not support expand the guilty either. At such sensitive point of time, expand the consequence and influence will lead to people do not trust each other that will cause social problems. Friends guard against, family mumbers doubt each other. A sensitive society would not have happyness that make people feel like living in heal. The execution is a good example to warn citizen, yet it is too much at a sensitive time. In my opinion, I do not support executuon, too serious to make people scare that cause social problems.

In my opinion, the Rosenberg’s couple was the victim of cold war. In McCarthyism atmosphere,The judge determined they only by David Granolas testimony. That was unfair, but treason is the worst thing at that time. Nobody will tolerate treason. What the Rosenberg’s couple did was exaggerated. Whatever,people should be loyal to their country.

They were punished and killed because of betray their country. However, there is a doubtful point that what’s the evident to show they did it and why? They were executed before the government find the evident. They were executed too quickly it’s make me fell apprehensiveness. Anything hid in this case? The government should know if they killed Rosenberg’s couple before they find truth it’s may cause communist political storm so why they still decided to execute them.

Today, treason cases are usually finished with a prison term. Considering the atmosphere in the United States at the time, was it right for the judge in the Rosenberg case to make an example of the couple and have them executed?

I think the judge in the Rosenberg case is too serious. After all, they are Americans and they should be send to a prison. However, if we consider the atmosphere in the United States at the time, this decision is easy to understand. At that time, the Soviet Union was the biggest competitor for the United States. So the United States can not forgive any form of betrayal.

The implementation of this couple for those who betrayed a typical example of his own country punishement . This seems to be the right decision , back to that era sentimental about these issues , so people would suspect , if you perform will apply to recent days . My view is that , no matter what kind of situation we are in , we should insist on loyalty to our country. Therefore , betrayal country is unacceptable , must be punished with the loss of their lives , so the public will have the price of the alarm.

I think it might not right for the judge in the Rosenberg case to make an example of the couple and have them executed. But consider that time, during the cold war, the United States had to executed this couple to warn and avoid other spys steal information from the United states to Soviet Union. But if the United states calm down and think, put Rosenbergs into jail might be the better way. It not only can avoid information continue flow into Soviet Union, but also can find information about Soviet Union and show tolerance of the United States.

Rosenberg was accused of espionage leakage between the atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union. They were was sentenced to death by U.S government. In my opinion,i think the true to the Soviet Union provide valuable information not Rosenberg. Rosenberg is only the victim of the cold war, but perhaps just because they are jewish.

If it happened in today’s word, I do not think should judge Rosenberg’s couple. I think the Rosenberg’s couple was the victim of cold war just like others. In that period of time, many people were immersed in McCarthyism atmosphere and l think Rosenberg’s couple were innocent, I cannot give your exactly reason to provide it, I just feel in that way. In my mind, the judge were not supposed to determine them by David granolas testimony only, he should not be influence his mind by emotion and other people. On the other hand, this decision is easy to understand for me, at that time, the Soviet Union was the biggest competitor for the United States, so the United States have to follow what they ask to do.

I think it is right to judge and execute The Rosenbergs coups. First of all, at that time in cold war, the biggest opponent to United State is Soviet Union, but the Rosenbergs coups steals the information and gives to Soviet Union release the information to its biggest opponent should be a serious crime. Second, the file which has been stole is about nuclear weapon. So the information is very important and dangerous, it might cause safety crises on United States. This information does really help Soviet Union to build their nuclear bombs. So this crime has a very negative influence. Depend on this point, court should give the Rosenbergs coups serious sentence and punishment. Moreover, it is a very sensitive time to United States, if United States does not give The Rosenbergs coups serious punishment, people may not take this crime seriously, and it may stimulate people to steal more information. And government have to use The Rosenbergs coups as an example to the public they treat this crime seriously with punishment to prevent more people commit same crime and cause more negative influence.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

In one of the most controversial capital punishment trials of the 20th century, a man and his wife were charged, tried, convicted, and executed, for the crime of “conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States,” at a time when the Cold War was just heating up. The avowed Communist Party couple also were accused of working with Soviet KGB agents to acquire nuclear weapons secrets, which smacked of treason. Although their co-defendants in the trial received sentences of 15 to 30 years in prison, the Rosenbergs became the first U.S. civilians to be executed for espionage. Unsurprisingly, media frenzy during the event heated public emotions to a white-hot intensity. While of America learned about the case through newspapers, a large audience followed it on radio and, to a lesser degree, on television.

Owing to the overheated political climate and frayed-nerve mindset of post-World War II America, a gulf widened between those who were convinced that a minimal amount of evidence was enough to convict the Rosenbergs, and those who believed the evidence was compromised, as presented by the prosecution. Background Julius was born in New York in May 1918, to Jewish parents. While working on his degree in electrical engineering at the College of New York, he joined the newly formed Young Communist League (YCL). There he met his future wife, Ethel Greenglass. Born in September 1915, Ethel also was from a Jewish family. After attempts to become a singer or actress failed, she landed a job as a secretary for a shipping company. In an intrepid plunge — for a woman of those times — Greenglass got involved in labor disputes and joined the YCL. After the two were married in 1939, Julius enlisted in the Army Signal Corps and specialized in radar equipment repair. The KGB In 1943, as World War II was being waged on numerous fronts, Semyon Semenov, a high-ranking officer of the KGB, recruited Julius Rosenberg, through his ties with the Communist Party USA, to provide classified information to the Soviets. Ostensibly, the Soviets needed the information because, as an ally with the U.S., they could fight the Germans on the Eastern Front with the advanced weaponry used by the U.S. in their battles. Of particular interest to the KGB was the “proximity fuse.” When installed on air-to-ground, air-to-air, or ground-to-air missiles, the device could detonate a warhead without having to make a direct hit on the target. The fuse was based on the Doppler principle of the sudden dropping of frequency waves once past its target. That was a vast improvement over timing devices and other means of bomb detonation. While the Rosenbergs, especially Julius, were possibly duped into thinking they were helping to bolster an ally, they were nonetheless complicit in acts against the U.S. in a time of war. Co-conspirators and the Manhattan Project When Semyonov was called back to Moscow in 1944, his duties were assumed by his protégé, Alexander Feklisov. Feklisov cultivated a warm relationship with Julius, and eventually persuaded him to bring in his brother-in-law, David Greenglass — a machinist on the Manhattan Project — to supply the pipeline with information. Owing to the viewpoint that the U.S. should not possess the only atomic bomb, Julius managed to recruit Joel Barr, Al Sarrant, William Perl, and Morton Sobell. Following the war, the U.S. was ultra-sensitive about sharing information with the U.S.S.R., so it came as a great surprise that the Soviets had managed to produce their own nuclear warhead. It was determined that German defector Klaus Fuchs, a theoretical physicist working for Great Britain, had passed secret documents to the Soviets via a courier. Following his arrest, David Greenglass confessed to supplying documents to the KGB, then testified against his sister and Julius. Greenglass also named Sobell as an accomplice, but Sobell fled to Mexico City, seeking asylum. He was later extradited back to the U.S. for trial. The trial and verdict The trial predictably attracted media attention of a similar magnitude as the recent Alger Hiss affair. Some observers argued that media bias had influenced the verdict and/or the sentence imposed on the Rosenbergs. During the trial, which began on March 6, 1951, the prosecution’s star witness, David Greenglass, continued to point the finger at his sister and Julius as conspirators who passed along sensitive information to the Soviets during wartime. Ethel was described by her brother as a “probationer” or “agent,” according to information provided by a sophisticated code-breaking device, known by its acronym VERONA. It was used by the U.S. intelligence corps to unravel foreign coded correspondence to and from Soviet operatives in the U.S., during and following the war. She was found guilty of the charges, but many supporters felt that a capital charge of conspiracy was not only too harsh, but clearly was not supported by the evidence. They point to the fact that Ethel was never given a code name (Julius was “Antenna” or “Liberal”) making her role appear less significant than her husband’s. The defining stroke of ignominy came down in 2001, when David Greenglass admitted that he had perjured himself regarding the testimony about his sister — nearly 50 years after her death — to protect his wife and children from persecution and possible prosecution. As for Julius, he took the Fifth Amendment whenever questions about his connections to the Communist Party, or any of its members, were asked. That did not earn him any sympathy points with the jury. Evidence showed that indeed, he met with Feklisov more than 50 times during a three-year period. The quality of information, however, is somewhat suspect beyond that of the proximity fuse. The trial ended on March 28, with the guilty verdicts read the following day. A week later, Judge Kaufman imposed the death penalty on the Rosenbergs Sobell received a 30-year sentence. Without being charged, Fuchs returned to England in 1946. However, he was arrested there in 1950, after intelligence officers gleaned enough information from the VERONA Project to confront him. Fuchs confessed, was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison, the maximum in England for passing secrets to a “friendly nation.” The execution A series of appeals, including to the U.S. Supreme Court, ran out on July 19, 1953. The Rosenbergs were put to death in the electric chair. Julius died on the first surge of juice. But the chair was not a one-size-fits-all contraption — it was not designed for a petite female. The grisly results were that, because of incomplete connections, three attempts had to be made on Ethel before death was pronounced. Some onlookers said that smoke could be seen rising from her scalp, with a foul odor wafting through the observation room. Aftermath The entire proceedings left many in tears, many more with a bad taste in their mouths, and a feeling that justice was far from served. An angry sentiment prevailed, and a grassroots crusade began, in part owing to the real fear of individual rights being usurped without the entire truth being heard by one’s peers. Such maddening questions remain as:

Beyond the grave The Rosenberg case refuses to go away. Their sons, orphaned at 10 and six, co-wrote a book, We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1975), about their experiences as orphans. Not one family member was willing to take them in, owing to fears of being fired by employers, or worse. Documentaries, as well as fiction novels, have helped keep the case from collecting dust:

The Rosenberg
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found to share the development of the atomic bomb with the Soviet Union which has somewhat helped them developed an atomic bomb. Moreover, Julius was known to affiliate with communist during McCarthyism which has made it more doubtful on his espionage with the Soviets. They both claimed themselves innocent and have been framed by Ethel’s brother. Yet, it’s complicate to judge whether the government was justified in executing Ethel as this isn’t about individual ideology sympathies but about whether the law and principles enforced are fairly proceeded with reasonable degree. In this case, it is clear that the US government has used its authority in influencing the laws and order of the court to adopt severe punishment.

In my personal opinion, I believe no. If you execute them, you have to either execute others because what they did is no different from what a lot of other spies did. While yes, their actions did in danger for American lives so do those of other convicted espionage and even just other basic criminals. Besides, killing off people who act in the cause against the in power government tends to stir up the emotions of other members of that same cause and also those who share sentiments of that cause but not necessarily part of it, causing the issue to grow and therefore further endangering other lives of civilian. The government should have consider more. After their execution, Ethel’s brother, who was also part of this espionage was caught, however was not executed. To be fair, either all of these people should be executed or sentenced to jails.

I stand on a neutral side toward this argument. Because both sides make sense to me.
First of all, according to the society background in the United States in 1953, which the society was hysterical in anti-communist. At such special time, Rosenbergs transfer sensitive information to Soviet, the most hated enemy of United States. Any crime relates with communist at this time would get an exaggerating punishment. No wonder the Rosenbergs would be convicted execute and what government did seems reasonable in the 1950s.
On the other hand, when we back to rational. We realize the Rosenbergs are victims of the society trend of overwhelming anti-communism. Executed the Rosenbergs is an unusual punishment than other espionage cases. People argue that the Rosenbergs should be convicted the same result as other espionage cases. It’s not fair to the Rosenbergs to receive severer punishment.
I think what degree of punishment the government/ the court will judge on espionage depend on the severity of espionage and influenced by society vibe. It’s difficult to define what is right decision and what is wrong.

In my own opinion I think that the execution of the Rosenbergs by the U.S.Government is not a bad decision. First, the execution of Rosenbergs is unfair because there are a lot people convicted of espionage are instead sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. Moreover, the Rosenbergs were likely to be framed by Ethel’s brother and he should also be sentence to death if the government wanted to execute the Rosenbergs. Second, I think that punishment should fit the crime. I acknowledge the hatred of the US toward the Soviet Union but the punishment of this incident should not be sentence to death because it does no direct harm toward the US. I think the US over react in this incident, in my own opinion i think life incarceration or sentenced the criminal to 20 year in prison is more than enough because they are not passing information about destroying the country, they are just passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviets. However, I think it is reasonable if the government wanted he execution of Rosenbergs to deter the espionage but i don’t agree with their action.

(In my own opinion I think that the execution of the Rosenbergs by the U.S.Government is a bad decision.)*
Sorry I typed a not in between the is and a. in my previous post.

I made a lot typo mistake in this comment…

I think that executing the Rosenbergs was not right as there wasn’t sufficient evidence that Ethel was the one that planned the whole mission and was set up by David Greenglass, but i can think that the government executed them because they want to show the whole nation that they are not playing with espionage and they are serious about people stealing classified information and hand them over to the worst enemy they have. Showing real power, the Rosenbergs were the first few to been executed by the US government, to lead by example that whoever spies will end up like them. Whereas, the Rosenbergs did not do things that really harm the United States. It was just more of a pride and show of power by the United States by doing so. As for the Rosenbergs, it wasn’t fair for them to be killed just like that, other people who were found guilty of espionage were just sentenced to jail. So, i think that it wasn’t fair but i can understand the reason why the government executed them.

Personally, I think it wasn’t right. First of all, no one has the right to take another person’s life. Second of all, it is unfair since most people convicted of espionage are sentenced to 20-30 years in prison instead of being executed. If there was guilt, it was mostly Julius’ because Ethel’s role was limited. I agree that the Rosenbergs broke the law and needed to be punished since they revealed US atomic bomb secret to Soviets, but the execution wasn’t necessary and wasn’t the only way. It was just United States’ attempt to prove that communist conspiracy was a threat to the Americans way of life.

Personally, I do not think it was right thing to do. Even though the information they gave to the Soviets were so important and sensitive, every individual has their own right to maintain their life, and most people convicted of espionage are sentenced to 20-30 years in prison, not execution. If they did a wrong thing, no one will argue with putting them in the prison, however, as they were executed, there are some people even now say that the U.S. did a wrong thing for sure. There is no doubt on what Rosenbergs have done, but killing them was definitely not a right thing to punish them.

It still remains controversial for executing Ethel Rosenberg nowadays. Supporters that insist it was unfair because the decision of execution was made under the situation with extremely scare of communism. In my opinion, this trail was absolutely unfair, however, it is understandable for making that decision at that special political circumstance. According to my research of Wikipedia, they did not reveal any valuable information to Soviet Union, and the later research shows that Soviet Union already know those materials about Manhattan project from other resources. So they did provide any essential value to Soviet Union. I think the main reason for them to be executed was the special situation of cold war and the high emotion of popularity of red scare. It was totally wrong for putting them on chair because they actually did nothing effective to harm the security of the United States, but I can understand why the judge made that decision due to the high tension of both sides.

I think the US government was right to execute Rosenbergs. In that period, Cold War, I know Rosenbergs was the only couple that was executed. However, Rosenbergs leaked the secrets of Manhattan Project, the project was about nucleus weapon. In Clod War, the nucleus weapon was the determined power of a war. In other words, the Manhattan Project related all Americans life. Otherwise, Rosenbergs joined KGB, the most famous spy organization all over the world. They provided the most information to the Soviet Union. Comparing with other spy in Cold War, the information Rosenbegrs leaked was much more serious than others. The US government did a right thing, it avoided the similar thing happen in a way.

It was not the best decision made by the US government executing the Rosenbergs since there were many people involved and they were only sentenced twenty-thirty years of prison. Also, not to mention the fact that the US has a strong resentment towards the soviet and the rosenbergs decision to transfer sensitive information in this case, the atomic bomb which is a big case considering the fact that what it does, was not a smart choice. But there are many ways to punish instead of executing.

In my opinion, I think it’s unfair to execute the Rosenbergs because the U.S government didn’t judge them as normal crimes. Just because of the Rosenbergs transfer sensitive information in this case? I don’t think so. It must mention a fact that that the US had strong resentments towards the soviet. Therefore, I think American government should be rational and objective to handle this case.

During the Cold war, in the United Stated, only the Rosenbergs sentenced to death because of the judgment of spying. Although after several years, the Soviet document proved at least Julius was involved in the espionage, people still debate the accusation. I think, since the 1950s, the United Stated had increased the emotion about Red Scare, so the judgment about The Rosenbergs must be unfair. The reason why they got the serious punishment than other spy because they have always refused to plead guily. There is no doubt that, they are the victim after the Cold War.

The U.S. already gave Rosenbergs a chance to admit what he has done. They chose not to confess lead them to execution. It was a competition between USSR and the U.S. During Cold war. Being a spy in this case was beyond serious, Rosenbergs did not want to realize wrong after things he did. If they put them in prison, there will be a possibility of escape. So personally, I think it was right for the U.S. government.

In my opinion, United States did wrong decision to Rosenberg because there was no enough reason to execute Rosenberg. He was suspected to tell the secret of nuclear bomb, but evidence to prove that was only his brother’s accusation. Court can’t make a decision with a reason and we can think about how his brother accused. For me, I think United States just wanted to kill him, so country forced to tell lie to his brother and it resulted to execute. As a result, I think there are few reasons to prove that Rosenberg acted as a spy.

I think the implementation of the Rosenbergs is not correct, because first reason is no one to take the right to life of others. Secondly, it is important that this is unfair, because most people convicted of espionage and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison instead of being executed. If guilty, mainly Julius “because of Ethel’s role is limited. I agree that the Rosenbergs violated the law, you need to be punished, because they reveal the secrets of the Soviet atomic bomb the United States, but the execution is not necessary, it is not the only way. this is just an attempt to prove that the United States is a communist plot to threaten the lives of Americans.there is not enough evidence Mingaisaier is planned the whole mission by David Greengrass set up one, but I can think of, the implementation of the government because they want to show the entire country, they do not play with the spies, they are serious people to steal confidential information, and transfer them to have the greatest enemy. Display real power, the Rosenbergs is the first of several US government to be executed, by way of example, where the espionage eventually like they had. However, the Rosenbergs did not do the things that really hurt the United States. This is just more popular show American pride and strength to do so. As for the Rosenbergs, it is not fair that they were killed like this, the other person who was found guilty of espionage just jailed. So, I think this is unfair, but why the Government to implement these I can understand the truth.

Personally, they should not get executed. The principal reason is this case was absence of confirmation, Rosenbergs might be guiltless. The second reason is whether they were spies, they were additionally the casualties of the Cold War. They didn’t do the wrong things. That were their occupations. The third reason is execution is too hard for spies. Spies does not slaughter others or hurt the social orders.

This case deserves to be discussed in detail. To some extent, the judgement is definitely right, because Manhattan Project was really a very important project and it is even worst that the documents were leaked to the top opponent, the Soviet Union. This can be extremely dangerous to the U.S. However, some objections are on the sentence and the evidence. There was the evidence shows that Julius was engaged in the espionage, but Ethel didn’t, at least didn’t reach the extent that could be sentenced. Meanwhile, they recieved much heavier sentence than any other espionages at that time. And it is under the circumstance that the documents they leaked was not that important, since the Soviet Union had already got the technology. So what we can say is that the sentense was not fair. The U.S. government made the judgement that we think is wrong now. However, I think it was highly possible for the government to make the decision at that time. After all, it was the emergency period of the Cold War and the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was very strained. The Rosenbergs might not be sentensed like this if they didn’t leak the document to the Soviet Union but someone else. It might be an unfair sentense to the Rosenbergs, but I think the U.S. government won’t regret for its decision.

In my opinion, U.S. government little exaggerated to execute the Rosenbergs. Both might found guilty to pass information about US’s nuclear project to the Soviet Union, but they should be questioning the value of information that the Rosenberg shared to the Soviet Union. However, even they convicted of espionage, they should be sentenced to 20-30 years prison only. Poorly, the Rosenbergs case happened during McCarthyism, which put both Julius and Ethel in the worst condition. Moreover, people of United States at that time believed too much in Joseph McCrathy and not only the Rosenbergs, many people in Hollywood lost their job because accused about their belief in communism. Communism such as a sensitive issue back then.

Definitely not. As mentioned above, espionage charges usually convict criminals to 20-30 years in prison. Why did the Rosenbergs have to suffer a different fate? And if the reasoning was due to the fact that they gave sensitive military grade information to the USSR, US’ lifelong rival, to execute them is a massive jump from 20-30 years in prison. To keep someone incarcerated is one thing, but to take a life, let alone two, is a rather inhumane thing to do for simply smuggling information – something that cannot be undone. US’ sentiment towards the USSR is common knowledge, and American’s hate towards them is no secret either but to kill and take someone’s life, that is a whole other level that I don’t think the Rosenbergs deserved.

I think your better kill the Rosenbergs than put they go a 20 or 30 years in prison, get away someone’s freedom for 20s years? No, If that were me, I will choose to commit suicide. On the other side, I think United States government do not have right to end the Rosenberys’ life. Giving men documents to Soviet Union about Manhattan project is need punishment. I can understand why the judge made the decision but I still think should not kill them, weather choose to die or live, should give the Rosenberys right to choose. For me, it really a hard question, I can not give a answer to say that kill them, it just not essay if i were the judge in that situation.

In my opinion, the US exaggerated the Rosenbergs’ crime. The US does not have enough evidence to decide the punishment for them but hastily choose to sentence to death. On the top of the problem is David Greenglass, who is the one set up the whole plan the steal information of Manhattan Project to the So Viet Union, was only put in jail.

Though Ethel played a part in espionage, she did not make as big of an impact. I don’t stand for the Rosenbergs’ execution but I still can’t say that their death was much of a loss because it was two lives over an entire nation’s. But then again this is coming from a completely impartial third party who will never really feel affected by it at all. It still is outrageous how unjust the decision was, though. It’s good that the US took matters seriously but they crossed the line from taking it seriously to taking it with no remorse whatsoever.

I think it was not the best decision taken by the US government executing Rosenberg, as there were many people involved and they were only sentenced to prison for 20-30 years so overall i think it was not the best decision made by the US government. And Soviet and United States were having competition at that time and so the fact that Rosenberg leaked the information about atomic bomb which was suppose to be a very secretive thing would have put him in lots of trouble but i think killing him was not a good options. I think the US government should have looked for other type of punishments.

I think it was not the best decision taken by the US government executing Rosenberg, as there were many people involved and they were only sentenced to prison for 20-30 years so overall i think it was not the best decision made by the US government. And Soviet and United States were having competition at that time and so the fact that Rosenberg leaked the information about atomic bomb which was suppose to be a very secretive thing would have put him in lots of trouble but i think killing him was not a good options. I think the US government should have looked for other type of punishments.

I am personally a person who does not believe in death sentence. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for their roles in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. Even though they proclaimed their innocence, they died in the electric chair in 1953. It was not until 2008 that the co-defendant espionage trial, finally admitted that he and his friend, Julius, had both been Soviet agents. Despite of the fact that they did a crime, I believe death sentence will not solve a problem.

In my perspective, I thoroughly believe that they should not have been executed. The Rosenbergs can be called the spies even though Julius was the mastermind behind the plot. Each country has spies who sell their country secrets to another country, but most of them are not executed. They will be sentenced to jail for several years depending on the severity of the case. When considering the Rosenbergs, though the leaked information was about the atomic bomb, it was no big secret for them to be executed. What the US couldn’t stand up to was to let, specially the Soviets to know about the atomic bomb project because of the arms race between the US and Soviets. If the Rosenbergs had leaked the information about the atomic bomb to another country except the Soviets, in my point of view, they would not have been sentenced to death, instead they would have done some jail time and would have been set free.

It is fair to them. First, compared with other spies leasked information, they leasked information is more serious. Second, the information of America is very important and if they told others the information, the Ameican would lost in a very serious situation. Third, meanwhile, the seond red scared was very serious during that time, and the government and people were very sensitive to the communist.Therefore, if the people did something to be good for communist, the American would choose using other ways to protect themselves.

I think it is not right for the U.S. government to execute the Rosenbergs, because most people convicted of espionage are instead sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. Even though the information they steal is very important and did help the Soviet Union a lot, but it is always good to have a little mercy on spies, because U.S must have their own Spies in the Soviet Union as well. Execute the Rosenbergs just gave the Soviet Union to execute the spies that U.S sent to the Soviet, i don’t think it is good for temporary satisfy to risk your own agent’s life

From my point of view, it’s obviously wrong that American government execute Rosenberg because of he leaks the information about the Manhattan project. Admittedly, Manhattan Project is a significant project for American to compete with Soviets. It not only shows the country’s power but also expresses the ability that can them make the nuclear weapon or not. However, each people has their own right to live. What’s more, leaking the sensitive information is not so serious that should government deprives his life. Also, it’s extremely unfair for Rosenberg. According to the topic, most people convicted of espionage are usually sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. Why should Rosenberg be killed? I think there is no convinced reason for government to execute Rosenberg.

Standing on the point of U.S government,I think they took a good measure, even though it looked a littlle bit radical. Because the Rosenbergs gave away the sesentive document of U.S government, that did harm to U.S, what they did violate the principle of a citizen, that kind of people should deserve being paid back due to what they did.

I personally do not think and do not support any executions, and I think that no one has a right to take other person’s life. But in a case of Rosenbergs, I think that it was right for U.S to execute them, and partially just to scare people and show on their example that you shouldn’t go against your own government. The information that they passed to the Soviet Union altered the balance of power early in the Cold War, and they significantly damaged the freedom and democracy. At the time when it was happening, there was some controversy as to whether they were actually spies or simply communists, and they could simply be communist if they wanted to, there’s nothing wrong with it. After the fall of East Germany, and the discovery of Soviet reports, it became evident that they were actually spies. So the entire thing wasn’t an accident and they were executed deservedly. Yes, it is not fair that other people convicted of espionage got 20-30 years in prison instead, but looking at the history overall, most of the executions weren’t fair, and at least in this case Rosenbergs actually damaged a lot and were executed justly.

I think it is not fair to execute the Rosenbergs while most people convicted of espionage are instead sentenced to twenty to thirty years in prison. Ethel and Julius Rosenbergs was arrested for stealing information about Manhattan Project and selling it to the Soviets. If the U.S. government execute the Rosenbergs, they also need to execute others for espionage. Although Manhattan Project is confidential and important, the law should treat everyone equal, even they are criminals.

The U.S government shouldn’t execute the Rosenbergs when they found the couple might be the spies. It was not fair to everyone. As we know, they just the members of the Communist and their death caused the “Red Scare”. They just the one of tragic for the Cold War. The competition of two countries: The Soviet Union and the United States were awful. It made innocent people died.

I personally believe that executing the Rosenbergs was not fair, and in fact it was Greenglass who should have been executed, since he was the one who planned the whole thing. And Rosenbergs should have just been imprisoned. However, the information that was spied was very sensitive, and by that time for the u.s, soviets gaining the knowledge and ability to create a nuclear weapon meant that they could no longer threaten them to achieve their goals. And finally (obviously not only because of the Rosenbergs) soviets made it to create nuclear weapons. And this was not to the united states’ benefits in many cases such as the war in korea (since they could no longer threaten socviets to leave north korea). With all that being said, it cild be seen that U.S was probably afraid that if their punishments are inadequate, other espionage cases may arise, therefore they executed them to give a lesson to people.

Ethel and Julius Rosenbergs were arrested for stealing information about Manhattan project and selling it to the Soviets. It is true that information about Manhattan project was more valuable but it is not the reason that they were sentenced to dead. Laws keep our society orderly. We cannot judge people what we want. Although Rosenbergs did wrong thing and betray their country, they have their rights to live in the world. And they needed to be judged fairly.

The Rosenbergs case is still controversial today. Although the Rosenbergs are members of communism,but the later evidences just testified that they might be spies of the soviet union and the information they leaked is not useful for the soviet union’s nuclear project. This is why people did think the death penalty was unfair for them. but when we consider the social situation at that period, we could stand a more rational standpoint to think about this case. At that period, the US and the soviet union was in cold war. And the US tried to strike the red scare and the communism effect in US scope. The Rosenbergs’ case happened during that sensitive period. During the war period, the only way to treat spies is the capital punishment. So we can’t say that punishment is fait for the Rosenbergs, at least the final outcome is not surprised for me .

In my personal opinion, it was right decision to punish the Rosenberg. There is one reason for my thinking. First, it can be a good example that shows to American about punishment when people steal technology. If the America government did not punish so hard like this, there would be more person who steals the technology and sells to other countries. It can be more dangerous situation because all nations will have the atomic bomb. Therefore, I believe that give punishment for Rosenberg is right decision.

I think the death sentence to the wife was not fair at all in any way possible! Her execution was probably done to sent out a message to the people of the united states and the world that the US does not tolerate any form of communism. Coming back to the topic the government should I believe recognize their mistake even though it’s late. Executing someone without proof was in no way justifiable specially when considering so many murders were given life in prison and Ethel got an execution.

There is no doubt they have to get punished because of their espionage. Especially the information they transferred is about the atomic bomb which might cause countless casualties and loss. But the decision to execute them seems a bit too harsh when others who was also in part of espionage were only sentenced 20 to 30 years in prison. If they got executed, the others should be treated the same. So in my view, it is not right for government to execute the Rosenbergs.

I think the death penalty was not just showing off case for this one because the United States was in the arms race and they want to beat them during this Cold War period. The focus of the United States was on Soviet Union, I mean they could have done anything they can if they can beat Soviet and here the government find out the leak of the Manhanttan project how the United States could just pardoned them? People want them to be executed and call them as betrayer. I think the United States should gave them one more chance to revive their credit about loyalty.

I think it was kind of right decision. The execution of him could be good example for other spies. It could terrify other spies and show the authorities to them. If it was successful, the number of spies would be lower. Moreover, it was significant and sensitive stuff for America. However, just executing Rosenberg is unfair. They were many spies who are convicted of espionage. He also had right to sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. That is why I think it was kind of correct.

The Facts About Ethel Rosenberg

Most people believe that Ethel Rosenberg was executed in 1953 because she passed vital secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. But she didn’t.

Information released after her death from confessions, KGB and U.S. government files, and grand jury testimony released in 2015, has revealed many truths about Ethel Rosenberg’s trial and execution. The narrative that follows comes entirely from independent, third-party sources, with citations provided.

—Ethel Rosenberg’s husband, Julius, did provide information about military technology to the Soviet Union during World War II, in what he saw as an effort to help the Soviets defeat the Nazis[i]. At that time, the Soviet Union was a U.S. ally[ii]. The Soviets gave their agents code names, but they never gave Ethel one because she was not a spy.[iii]

—Secrets about the U.S. atomic bomb program were passed to the Soviets, but not by Julius Rosenberg. Julius, an electrical engineer, was fired by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in January of 1945.[iv] As a result, he was suspended by his Soviet handlers in February of 1945, and was thus inactive when the Soviets were given drawings about the bomb later that year.[v]

—Ethel Rosenberg’s younger brother, David Greenglass, was a machinist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the U.S. built its atomic bombs. He and his wife, Ruth, were given code names by the Soviets, and did pass atomic-bomb information to them.[vi] Greenglass made crude drawings and notes about the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, which Ruth Greenglass delivered to a KGB agent in December of 1945.[vii] The Soviets and other experts judged Greenglass’s information to be virtually worthless.[viii] The Soviets received most of their useful intelligence about the bomb from a highly skilled German atomic physicist who worked at Los Alamos named Klaus Fuchs.[ix]

—In 1950, during the height of McCarthyism, Greenglass and Fuchs were arrested and confessed to espionage.[x] Julius Rosenberg was also arrested but refused to confess or name names. Government prosecutors, in an effort to pressure him, also arrested and charged Ethel, then caring for their two small children. When the Rosenbergs refused to confess, the government increased the pressure by threatening them with the death penalty. The Rosenbergs still refused to plead guilty. A prosecutor told a Congressional committee that while the case against Ethel was weak, she should nonetheless be convicted and given a “stiff” sentence “as a deterrent.”[xi]

— One government prosecutor at the time said that the case against Ethel for conspiracy to commit espionage contained “insufficient evidence” to convict her, but that she could be used “as a lever against her husband.”[xii] In sworn testimony, David Greeenglass told the grand jury that he never discussed espionage with Ethel.[xiii] Then he was pressured by federal prosecutors and changed his story.[xiv] At the trial Greenglass testified that Ethel had typed up notes about the atomic bomb, thus providing the key evidence against his sister.[xv] Many years later David Greenglass said that he had lied at the trial and that the notes were probably typed by his wife, Ruth.[xvi] In 1986, Roy Cohn, assistant prosecutor at the Rosenberg’s trial, admitted that the government had “manufactured” evidence against the Rosenbergs.[xvii]

—Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage and executed by electric chair at Sing Sing Prison on June 19th, 1953. They were the only U.S. citizens ever executed for conspiracy to commit espionage.[xviii] Those who actually passed atomic secrets to the Soviets lived out their lives. Greenglass served less than ten years in prison, and his wife, Ruth, was never charged.[xix] Klaus Fuchs spent nine years in a British prison[xx].

As President Obama said in June of 2016, referring to anti-Muslim hate speech, “We've gone through moments in our history when we acted out of fear—and we came to regret it. We've seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens. And it has been a shameful part of our history.”[xxi] The fear of the McCarthy era led to the unfair conviction and execution of Ethel Rosenberg.[xxii] The U.S. government has apologized for other shameful incidents, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans[xxiii]. It has never, however, corrected its mistreatment of Ethel Rosenberg.

[iii] The Venona Transcripts only list Ethel Rosenberg by her given name, not a code name as with actual agents. While she was an active volunteer and mother, they say about her, “In view of her delicate health does not work.” (Venona transcript, “revised translation of message on Antenna-Liberal’s wife Ethel,” 12 August, 1948). Meredith Gardner, chief NSA decrypter, interpreted this as follows: “The work that Ethel cannot do in view of her delicate health may not be the earning of her bread and butter, but conspiratorial work.” (Comment on “Revised Translation of Message on Antenna-Liberal’s Wife Ethel,” Meredith Garner, August 12th, 1948). FBI files indicate they knew Ethel Rosenberg did not spy. An FBI memo with a series of questions to be asked of Julius Rosenberg if he agreed to cooperate asks just one question about Ethel: “Was your wife cognizant of your activities?” (FBI memorandum from W.A. Branigan to A.H. Belmont, June 17, 1953) Also see Weinstein & Vassiliev, (1999). The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America. Random House.

[v] Schneir, Walter and Schneir, Miriam (2010). Final Verdict. Melville House, page 127

[viii] Roberts, Sam (2001). The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case. Random House. pp. 425–426, 432. Also Schneir, Final Verdict, page 26, 130. Also notes of KGB files in "Vassiliev Black Notebook," 2009, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Alexander Vassiliev Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112860 p 136, June 26, 1945, file 40594, v. 7, p. 49

[ix] Radosh, Ronald, and Milton, Joyce (1997). The Rosenberg File, Yale University Press, pp. 39–40.

[xi] File #3201, US Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, 2/8/1951, p 6, AEC Documents.

[xii] Belmont to Ladd, 7/17/1950, JR HQ 188, quoted in Carmichael, Virginia (1993). Framing History: The Rosenberg Story and the Cold War, University of Minnesota Press, page 73. Also Schneir, Final Verdict, page 88.

[xiii]Greenglass’s grand-jury testimony, revealed after a lawsuit and court order in 2015, available at: http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20150714-Rosenberg-spy-case-Greenglass-tes.

[xv] United States v. Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2d Circuit, October Term, 1951, Docket numbers 22201-22202. Also Schneir, Final Verdict, pg. 63

[xvi] Roberts, The Brother, p. 483, and “Vassiliev Black Notebook,” p. 137

[xvii] Dershowitz, Alan, (2004). America On Trial. Warner Books. Page 323.

[xix] Benjamin, Philip (November 17, 1960). “Greenglass Freed from Prison. Served 9 ½ Years as Atom Spy.” The New York Times.