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June 19: The Rosenbergs Are Executed

lawrencebush
June 19, 2014
Rosenbergs1Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by electric chair in Ossining, New York on this date in 1953, despite worldwide appeals for clemency. Their two-year trial for conspiracy to commit atomic espionage on behalf of the USSR was a media sensation that heightened both American anti-communism and the fear and paranoia of American communists — some third of whom were Jewish, like the Rosenbergs — to fever pitch. The deeds for which the Rosenbergs were convicted took place during World War II, when the U.S. and the USSR were military allies in the anti-Nazi struggle — and while independent investigations and Soviet-era secret cables did indicate, decades later, that Julius Rosenberg participated in espionage, his wife Ethel was, at worst, a witness to her husband’s deeds rather than an active participant. Nevertheless, trial judge Irving Kaufman declared them both to be responsible for “putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb” and therefore responsible for “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.” The Rosenbergs' young sons were orphaned by the execution and were then adopted by songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne. To read Ethel's final letter to her sons, as well as her letter about refusing to confess to any crimes, as well as contemporaneous commentary by newspapers, international personages, and writers for Jewish Currents, click here. “I continue to maintain my innocence for the sole reason that I am not guilty of the charge.” —Ethel Rosenberg, letter to their attorney, June 8, 1953