The Tragic Story of the Rosenberg Couple: Accused, Betrayed and Executed in the Electric Chair

Seventy years ago, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being accused of passing information on the atomic bomb to the Soviets, in the midst of the Cold War. Strictly speaking, they were involved through Ethel’s brother, who had done this work. It’s history.

Although having been allies during the Second World War, From the 1950s, the UNITED STATES and the Soviet Union they had become enemies. On the same side as the victors of the Axis powers, it was ideological differences that ended up pushing the two colossi apart. Each remained within its area of ​​influence, but trying to hit the other without direct attack.

“The division of the world, or a large part of it, into two zones of influence negotiated in 1944-1945 has survived. For thirty years, neither side crossed the established demarcation line, except at specific times. Both renounced open confrontation, thus ensuring that the cold war would never become a hot war”; says the famous historian Eric Hobsbaum in his classic 20th century history (Review, 1994).

Although there were times when the international storyline led to the two facing each other through others around the world (such as in the korean war, 1950-1953, where the USSR supports the north and the United States the south), the bulk of the conflict takes place where the novelists arrive. The recesses of secret information.

Korean War, 1950-1953.

“The Cold War, which tried to live up to its own rhetoric of struggle for supremacy or annihilation, was not a confrontation in which fundamental decisions were made by governments, but the silent rivalry between the various secret services recognized and to be recognized which has produced in the West the most characteristic fruit of international tension: spy novels and clandestine murders,” says Hobsbawm.

This secret rivalry is what caught up with a married couple of American Jews in the early 1950s. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg . Both born in New York. He, an electrical engineer, and she, a secretary. The problem is that they were communist sympathizers, just at the worst time to be a communist in the United States. In fact, Julius was affiliated with the Communist Youth League, which did not prevent him from belonging – given his electrical skills – to the United States Signal Corps in 1940.

Juluis was assigned to a laboratory at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where he participated in critical research on military electronics, particularly as it relates to its use in radar, communications, and missiles. Most important of all, they had already exposed it to the world: the atomic bomb dropped in Japan, in 1945, on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagazaki on the terrible August 6th and 9th.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

At the time, in the land of Uncle Sam, there was speculation that the USSR might eventually catch up with the development of the nuclear arsenal, but they did not expect it to catch up with the United States. United so soon. For this reason, the surprise was enormous when the Soviets announced their first nuclear detonation test. And worse, the weapon to be detonated was very similar to the one that the United States developed in the so-called Manhattan Project, which -in its scientific part- led by Robert Oppenheimer, developed the Little Boy and Fat Man missiles , which exploded in Japan.

For Americans, the Soviets could not otherwise have developed a nuclear arsenal if it were not for a leak . Thus, a frantic search for a culprit began. And they found it soon. His name was David Greenglass a former Manhattan Project agent in Los Alamos, who was arrested along with his wife Ruth.

In his statement to the FBI, greenglass confessed that he had actually passed secret information to the Soviets. But, to avoid the bulge, he said he did so at the behest of his wife, Ruth, who, in turn, was acting on the behest of another name: Julius Rosenberg. The thorny issue is that Julius was married to his sister, Ethel Greenglass.

David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother, who framed the Rosenbergs.

Julius was the first to be arrested after this statement. -a denunciation rather- and two weeks later it was Ethel’s turn. For the press, they were guilty before any trial. The case made headlines from coast to coast and in the United States, nothing else was being talked about. As proof, in his novel glass bell, from 1963, sylvia plath wrote: “It was a strange, wet summer, the year the Rosenbergs were electrocuted…”.

“The idea that they could electrocute you disgusts me and in the newspapers you have read nothing else: rambling headlines stalked me on every street corner and in every stinking subway entrance, with a rancid stench of peanuts.”

At trial, only with David’s statement, Julius’s responsibility could be established, but Ethel’s not.. At first, David didn’t blame his sister, however, things changed when he and Ruth blamed Ethel for doing the paperwork typing. . Years later, David acknowledged that it was his own wife, Ruth, who was doing this work, not Ethel, whom he framed only to save her family. He lied to save himself.

As quoted by National Geographic, Ruth testified at trial that she saw Julius going in and out of the bathroom with the documents and immediately ordered Ethel to type in the relevant data. The dice were cast for both. Both claimed their innocence. They had two sons, Michael, 10, and Robert, 6, who would become orphans.

Ethel’s case, above all, was the most painful. “Ethel was executed simply because she was the wife. She was found guilty of having supported her husband,” said Anne Sebba, author of the essay. Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy, in an interview with The Guardian, adding: “Today it is easy to criticize them, but these are people who grew up in poverty during the Depression and lived through the rise of fascism. They thought they were making the world a better place,” says Sebba.

On April 5, 1951, the verdict was pronounced. For “collaboration with justice”, David was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which he served 9 years, Ruth was released. Meanwhile, the Rosenbergs were convicted and sentenced to death by electric chair. They kept claiming their innocence, in fact they never pleaded guilty.

It was Ethel, who shot him and begged for mercy from the then President of the United States, former war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. “We are neither martyrs nor heroes, and we do not aspire to be. We don’t want to die. We are young, too young. We are both looking forward to seeing our two little boys, Michael and Robert, grow into men. We hope with every fiber of our being that we will eventually be restored to our children’s side to resume the harmonious family life we ​​enjoyed before the nightmare of our arrests and convictions.”

President Dwight Eisenhower.

They had to spend two years waiting for the results of the appeals for the sentence to be carried out. Since the rest of the family did not want to take responsibility for the children, Michael and Robert were adopted by Abel Meeropol’s family.

Always wanting to have scapegoats, the Eisenhower administration told the Rosenbergs that if Julius gave them the names of other spies, and he and Ethel admitted their guilt, their lives would be spared. However, that meant lying to them. In response, they issued a public statement: “In asking us to repudiate the truth of our innocence, the government is admitting its own doubts as to our guilt…we will not be compelled, even on pain of death, to give a false testimony. “

The date of execution was June 19, 1953. Three days earlier, the sons, Michael and Robert, had been taken to Sing Sing Prison in New York State to say goodbye to their parents. Ethel remained calm and didn’t collapse, to reassure the little ones, but she handed them both a letter. “Maybe you thought I didn’t feel like crying when we kissed and said goodbye…Dear ones, it would have been so easy, too easy for me…but I love you more that myself and I knew that you needed this love much more than me, I have the relief of crying.

The afternoon of June 19, a final request for clemency was denied by President Eisenhower. At 8:00 p.m., they had already sent a last letter to their children . A 2021 Guardian article quotes her: “We wish to have the immense joy and gratification of living our life with you. Always remember that we were innocent and could not go against our conscience. We hugged and kissed them with all our might. With love, mom and dad.”

The first to be picked up from the cell was Julius. The idea was that if there was a confession, Ethel would do it, driven by the thought of losing her husband and children. Of that, nothing. Julius was electrocuted with a single shock at 8:04 p.m.

Then it was Ethel’s turn. A rabbi went to tell her of her husband’s death and suggested that she speak out to save his life. “I have no names to give. I am innocent. I am ready to die.” These are his last words, according to Infobae. Ethel had to receive 3 shocks to die, which according to EIlene Philipson commented in her book Ethel Rosenberg: Beyond the Myths (1993) it was because the electrodes did not adapt “properly” to the body of the woman, much smaller and thinner than Julius. The scapegoats were dead.

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Source: Latercera

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