On March 29, 1951, after a brief 23 day trial, a jury found Julius and Ethel Rosenberg guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Espionage against the United
States of America. Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg had been accused of heading a spy network that supplied the Soviet Union with crucial information leading
to its development of atomic weaponry.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after conviction.
(thumbnail, click for larger size)
The Rosenbergs embrace after arrest.
Two days after the conviction, the husband and wife were sentenced to death, and their executions were carried out in Sing Sing on June 19, 1953.
One of the main factors leading to the Rosenberg’s conviction-- particularly Ethel’s-- was the testimony of Ethel's brother and sister-in-law:
David and Ruth Greenglass, who had themselves been accused of supplying the Soviets with notes David stole when working on the Manhattan Project at
David and Ruth Greenglass
The Rosenbergs were not helped by a defense that many at the time, and since, have labeled incompetent. More harmful, however, was the testimony
of Greenglass and Gold. Greenglass declared that Julius Rosenberg had set up a meeting during which Greenglass passed the plans for the atomic bomb to
Gold. Gold supported Greenglass’s accusation and admitted that he then passed the plans along to a Soviet agent.
The investigations began with the apprehension of Klaus Fuchs, a German physicist who had worked in Los Alamos on the development of nuclear weapons
and who later passed the information on to the Soviets through German communist Ruth Kuczynski. Fuchs gave authorities information on his courier
Harry Gold, who in turn named David Greenglass.
Greenglass pointed his finger at his brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg, claiming Rosenberg headed a spy ring and recruited him when he heard of his
position at Los Alamos.
All the defendants were charged with conspiracy, but only the Rosenbergs received death. No tangible evidence was needed (or supplied) for the trial.
Not only were the Rosenbergs convicted without tangible evidence, transcripts of the Greenglass' sworn testimony before the grand jury and at trial
revealed major contradictions.
Before the grand jury, neither Greenglass mentioned:
the allegedly crucial September 1945 meeting
the supposed atomic bomb sketch that they later said David gave to Julius at that meeting
any hand-written notes from David, about the sketch or bomb
Ethel Rosenberg doing any typing of these supposed notes
or Ethel’s presence at the alleged meeting.
For the above reasons and others mentioned in the linked article, there have been many calls over the years for Ethel's posthumous exoneration.
Mr. Greenglass changed his name after serving 10 out of his 15 year sentence (Ruth received no time in exchange for her testimony) and went into
hiding. The New York Times tracked him down a few years ago for an interview which informed a book on the subject in which Greenglass all but admits
to lying to protect his wife:
“I don’t remember that at all,” Mr. Greenglass said. “I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don’t remember.” He said he had no
regrets. “My wife is more important to me than my sister. Or my mother or my father, O.K.? And she was the mother of my children.”
Despite mounting evidence of Ethel's innocence, her name has yet to be exonerated.
edit on 29-3-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason