Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg NYWTS.jpg
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1951
Born
  • (1918-05-12)May 12, 1918 (Julius)
  • (1915-09-25)September 25, 1915 (Ethel)

Died
  • June 19, 1953(1953-06-19) (aged 37) Ethel
  • June 19, 1953(1953-06-19) (aged 35) Julius

Ossining, New York, U.S. (both)
Resting placeWellwood Cemetery
Suffolk County, New York
OccupationActress, singer, secretary (Ethel); electrical engineer (Julius)
Criminal statusExecuted
ChildrenMichael Meeropol, Robert Meeropol
Criminal chargeConspiracy to commit espionage
PenaltyDeath

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American citizens who spied, with others, for the Soviet Union and were tried, convicted, and executed by the federal government of the United States. They provided top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the USSR and were accused of transmitting valuable nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union; at that time the United States was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons.[1][2][3]

Other convicted co-conspirators were imprisoned, including Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, who supplied documents from Los Alamos to Julius and who served 10 years of a 15-year sentence; Harry Gold, who identified Greenglass and served 15 years in federal prison as the courier for Greenglass. Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist working in Los Alamos and handled by Gold, provided vastly more important information to the Soviets. He was convicted in Great Britain and served nine years and four months in prison.[4][5]

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 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-named VENONA, which detailed Julius's role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets and Ethel's role as an accessory.

Their sons' current position is that Julius was legally guilty of the conspiracy charge, though not of atomic spying, while Ethel was only generally aware of his activities. The children say that their father did not deserve the death penalty and that their mother was wrongly convicted. They continue to campaign for Ethel to be posthumously and legally exonerated.[6]

In 2014, five historians who had published works based on the Rosenberg case wrote that Soviet documents show that Ethel Rosenberg hid money and espionage paraphernalia for Julius, served as an intermediary for communications with his Soviet intelligence contacts, relayed her personal evaluation of individuals whom Julius considered recruiting, and was present at meetings with his sources.[3]They also demonstrate that Julius reported to the KGB how Ethel persuaded Ruth Greenglass to travel to New Mexico to recruit David Greenglass as a spy.[3]

Early lives and education

Corner of Orchard and Rivington streets, Lower East Side (2005)

Julius Rosenberg was born on May 12, 1918, in New York City to a family of Jewish immigrants. The family moved to the Lower East Side by the time Julius was 11. His parents worked in the shops of the Lower East Side, as Julius attended Seward Park High School. Julius became a leader in the Young Communist League USA while at City College of New York (CCNY). In 1939, he graduated from CCNY with a degree in electrical engineering.[7]

Ethel Greenglass was born on September 25, 1915, to a Jewish family in Manhattan, New York City. She originally 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 met Julius in 1936. They married in 1939.[8] Together they had two sons, Michael and Robert, born in 1943 and 1947 respectively.

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