The Rosenbergs: lynching or execution?

Yesterday’s TOI “BIRTHDAYS” section carries the obvious misattribution of “1918:Julius Rosenberg Julius and her husband, Ethel Rosenberg.” I was about to write to David Horowitz indicating the error when I began to read the remainder of the text and noted several obvious continuing falsehoods, Governmental “lies” (to borrow the Treasury Department’s term describing FDR’s state policy of “saving the Jews” from Auschwitz). Funny how the manipulation of narrative persists even after the facts in the public record contradict.

FACT: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are exceptional in being the only American civilians convicted of espionage ever to have been executed for the crime.

The TOI blurb:

“Julius and her husband, Ethel Rosenberg” were American communists who were convicted and executed on June 19, 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage during a time of war. Their charges were related to the passing of information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Their execution was the first execution of civilians for espionage in United States history. The decision to execute the Rosenbergs was, and still is, controversial. The other atomic spies who were caught by the FBI offered confessions and were not executed. For example, 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 a spy.)”

Communists they never denied; spying for Russia Julius never denied. But TREASON? The charge is very specific as written in the U.S. Constitution, Article 3, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.” (emphasis added)

At the time the Rosenbergs were charged with espionage the United states and Russia were allies (no enemy involved). So the charge itself is spurious. Clearly the judge, Irving Kaufman, was ignorant, or deceptive of the distinction between espionage on behalf of an ally and espionage on behalf of an enemy. His closing statement condemning the couple to death clearly represents ideology over the law:

I consider your crime worse than murder… I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country. No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension. We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack.”


As to the specifics of the charge.  Putting “atomic secrets” into the hands of the Russians “enemy” (in fact by the early 1950’s the Cold War was in full swing and Russia was the enemy): Julius Rosenberg was a civilian employee of the Army Signal Corps working in the field of radar, not nuclear. Ethel Rosenberg, Which the FBI reportedly knew innocent of espionage accused in order to coerce her husband into providing information on others involved in espionage. Having failed to achieve its purpose the FBI, reportedly under Hoover’s direction, allowed the “espionage” charge of to go forward resulting in the double execution.

The actual person guilty of passing those atom bomb secrets to the Russians was the German physicist Klaus Fuchs who worked on the top secret Manhattan Project at Los Alamos (another “spy” was an American graduate student. She reportedly smuggled secrets out of the “top secret” Nevada facility in a Kleenex box!). Fuchs, a Lutheran and British citizen was later tried in a British court. 

After a trial lasting less than 90 minutes, Lord Goddard sentenced him to fourteen years’ imprisonment, the maximum for espionage, because the Soviet Union was classed as an ally at the time.”

He was released seven years later.

Antisemitism in the United States, according to polling of Americans beginning in the late 1930’s was as widespread and virile as in Germany and most of Continental Europe before, during and following the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. In a previous article I referred to the Rosenbergs as a “show trial” no different from those taking place in Stalin’s Russia. One wonders if, had the Rosenbergs been Lutheran rather than Jewish would they have died in the electric chair? Would they have even stood trial?

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.