It was on 19 June, 1953, that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (images of whom are seen above in a memorial in Havana) were executed for espionage. Ethel and Julius were both born into Jewish immigrant families in New York City. Ethel held 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. That same year Julius graduated from CCNY with a degree in electrical engineering.
In 2001, David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother and the main prosecution witness in the case, recanted. He stated he gave false testimony to protect himself and his wife, Ruth, and that he was encouraged by the prosecution to do so.
In 1989, Soviet Engineer Boris Brokhovich told The New York Times in an interview that development of the bomb had been a matter of trial and error.
“You sat the Rosenbergs in the electric chair for nothing,” he said. “We got nothing from the Rosenbergs.” Former KGB Station Chief Alexander Feklisov supported this claim, saying Julius Rosenberg, “didn’t understand anything about the atom bomb.” And that Ethel Rosenberg was “completely innocent” and played no role in espionage whatsoever.
The Rosenberg’s two sons were orphaned by the executions. They were adopted by the high school teacher, poet, songwriter and social activist Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne, and they assumed the Meeropol surname. One of their sons, Michael, would receive a Phd in Economics from the UW-Madison in 1973.
Upon the execution, philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre called the trial “a legal lynching which smears with blood a whole nation. By killing the Rosenbergs, you have quite simply tried to halt the progress of science by human sacrifice. Magic, witch-hunts, autos-da-fé, sacrifices – we are here getting to the point: your country is sick with fear … you are afraid of the shadow of your own bomb.”