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Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg


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But that is, as I said, a moral dilemma. Is there any right or wrong answer?

After 9/11, we were briefed by some ex-RN people who really brought home some truths.

For instance, you return home to find people holding your wife and children hostage. They tell you that you have to do what they say, or your wife and children will die. A sleepless night follows.

This is not an accurate comparison. David Greenglass was arrested because he had been part of a spy ring. The same thing happened to Julius Rosenberg. Greenglass was offered a deal where he would be treated kindly by the courts if he implicated others. This is the first moral decision he had to make. He decided to do a deal and named Julius Rosenberg and Ruth Greenglass but denied his sister was involved.

Julius Rosenberg and Ruth Greenglass are then arrested. Julius is offered a deal but refuses to give evidence against anybody in the spy ring. Ruth is also offered a deal. She accepts and provides false information against her sister-in-law. David Greenglass is then re-interviewed and he changes his story about his sister as part of the deal that is on offer.

I cannot see how you cannot see that the behaviour of David and Ruth Greenglass is completely immoral. An act of immorality that led to the death of a completely innocent woman.

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U.S. Judge Upholds Secrecy of Rosenberg Testimony

By BENJAMIN WEISER

The New York Times

July 23, 2008

A federal judge in Manhattan, weighing the secrecy of the grand jury process against the interests of public accountability, refused on Tuesday to unseal the grand jury testimony of a critical witness in the Rosenberg atomic espionage case.

But with no objection from the government about the release of testimony from three dozen or so other witnesses, those records could be released soon.

The witness who objected to having his testimony made public, David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, was a co-conspirator and a key government witness whose testimony helped convict Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were executed at Sing Sing on June 19, 1953.

Mr. Greenglass, now 86, is one of the most controversial figures in the enduring spy case, historians say, as years after his sister’s execution he recanted his testimony that she had typed some of his espionage notes. He had testified against her to spare his wife, Ruth, from prosecution, and is widely seen as helping to cause Ethel’s conviction and execution.

A group of historians had petitioned for the release of the still-secret testimony, running more than 1,000 pages, of the witnesses who appeared before the grand jury in the Rosenberg case and a related one in 1950 and 1951.

The government agreed to the unsealing of testimony from most of the witnesses, objecting only to that of about 10, including Mr. Greenglass, who were still alive and did not consent or could not be found.

In refusing to release Mr. Greenglass’s testimony while he is alive, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein stressed the importance of grand jury secrecy as well as accountability.

But he added that not permitting others to disclose what a witness has said before the grand jury “is an abiding value that I must respect.”

Mr. Greenglass was not in court, but his lawyer, Daniel N. Arshack, wrote to Judge Hellerstein, saying that the circumstances that led to Mr. Greenglass’s testimony were “complex and emotionally wrought,” and had thrust him and his family “into an unwanted spotlight which has dogged their lives ever since.”

“The unequivocal and complete promise of secrecy,” Mr. Arshack wrote, “provided the protection that the guarantee of secrecy is designed to provide.”

Judge Hellerstein said that he would wait to rule on the other witnesses for whom the government was still objecting until further efforts were made to track them down or ascertain that they had died.

But he made it clear that he wanted that search to occur expeditiously, saying “time is precious” for historians and researchers.

The petitioners, led by the National Security Archives, a nonprofit group at George Washington University, had argued that the significance of the case, which they called “perhaps the defining moment of the early Cold War,” should trump the traditional confidentiality rules that govern the grand jury process.

The government, while not disputing the case’s historic importance, has said that the court should abide by the views of living witnesses who objected to the release of their testimony. Otherwise, the government said, witnesses could be discouraged from speaking candidly before grand juries in the future.

David C. Vladeck, a lawyer who argued for the petitioners, praised the outcome of the case and the expected release of the other testimony. “All of this is very good news,” he said.

He added that he was disappointed in the ruling on Mr. Greenglass, but said that “at some point we’ll get the records,” alluding to the government’s position that historians can renew their request after a witness’s death.

The historians supporting the release of the Rosenberg records hold diverse political views and opinions about the case. One of the petitioners is Sam Roberts, a reporter for The New York Times, who wrote a book on Mr. Greenglass.

One scholar who was not involved in the petition, David Oshinsky, said that even without release of the Greenglass testimony, the testimony of the other witnesses should help clear up questions about the evidence against Ethel Rosenberg.

“My sense is that what this may do is further implicate Julius while to some degree further exonerating Ethel,” said Mr. Oshinsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.

He added that if there turned out to be very little other evidence against Ethel Rosenberg, “then the entire case does take a turn, and that is of vital importance.”

"The government, while not disputing the case’s historic importance, has said that the court should abide by the views of living witnesses who objected to the release of their testimony. Otherwise, the government said, witnesses could be discouraged from speaking candidly before grand juries in the future." The point is that this testimony shows that he lied. By publishing these documents it will send out a warning to others who might consider lying in order to hurt someone else.

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This is not an accurate comparison. David Greenglass was arrested because he had been part of a spy ring. The same thing happened to Julius Rosenberg. Greenglass was offered a deal where he would be treated kindly by the courts if he implicated others. This is the first moral decision he had to make. He decided to do a deal and named Julius Rosenberg and Ruth Greenglass but denied his sister was involved.

Julius Rosenberg and Ruth Greenglass are then arrested. Julius is offered a deal but refuses to give evidence against anybody in the spy ring. Ruth is also offered a deal. She accepts and provides false information against her sister-in-law. David Greenglass is then re-interviewed and he changes his story about his sister as part of the deal that is on offer.

I cannot see how you cannot see that the behaviour of David and Ruth Greenglass is completely immoral. An act of immorality that led to the death of a completely innocent woman.

Immoral, yes, but was it understandable on the part of David Greenglass? If he had refused to support his wife's story, what would have happened to Ruth? Was it a case of giving up one of them?

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  • 5 weeks later...

NSA and the other associations, the same associations who were responsible for nominating the members of the JFK Assassinations Records Review Board.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20080131/index.htm

NSA Petition: Hey it worked!

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20080131...gs/petition.pdf

Inky:

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/world_us/20...d_released.html

WP:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/washingto..._of_docume.html

Lesson Plan:

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lesso.../rosenbergfile/

Edited by William Kelly
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  • 6 months later...

There was a very good article, "Orphaned by the State", in last Saturday's Guardian on the the impact that the Rosenbergs execution had on their two sons.

It includes the following:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/200...enberg-children

But even when they were arrested - Julius was taken first, then Ethel - there seems little doubt that they could have acted to save themselves. Wouldn't that have been better for their children? Again, Meeropol thinks not. "Neither of my parents had a choice whereby they could come forward and say, 'OK, I admit I've done this, now how can I save my life?' What the government wanted them to do - and remember this was the McCarthy era - was become puppets, to dance to their tune and to provide a list of others who would then be put in exactly the position they were in. They would have had to renounce all that they believed in. To save themselves, they'd have had to betray others and that was too high a price to pay."

But all this went way over the heads of the two small boys who suddenly found themselves without a mother and father, shunted from home to home while the sand ran through the timer counting down the final months and weeks of the Rosenbergs' lives. It's clear from everything he says that the events of that desperate time were almost unfathomable to him; it's clear, too, that he'd have given anything for an ordinary home and an ordinary family. He remembers, for example, seeing his cousins with their parents and thinking, why can't we be like that? But, interestingly, the adult Meeropol believes that, while the little boy he once was suffered for his parents' stubbornness in the face of death, the adult self he became has gained enormously from it. He is immensely proud of them, even grateful: he says he hopes that, in their shoes, he would have made the same decision they did - the decision not to betray their friends.

But more than that, what the Rosenbergs bequeathed to their younger son was something every life needs. They left him a purpose. Campaigning against the death penalty and working for his fund have given his life a structure and a cause: their decision half a century ago is continuing to shape his life...

If having the Rosenbergs as parents has given their sons a strong sense of family, it has also given them profound insight into what happens when a family is torn apart. Because one of the most remarkable aspects of the trial in 1952 was that it was Ethel's own brother, David Greenglass, who provided the testimony that sent the couple to their deaths.

Greenglass had been an army machinist at the plant where the atomic bomb was being developed, and was recruited by Julius as a spy; to save himself and his wife, Meeropol believes, he betrayed his sister and her husband. Unsurprisingly, this is a family split that never has been, and never can be, mended. "I have never had any connection with David Greenglass or the Greenglass family," says Meeropol. "I saw him interviewed on television once and the thing I noticed was how he denied responsibility for everything. Nothing was his fault - it was all someone else's fault." He pauses. "In some ways," he says, "I've defined myself, all my life, as someone who is not David Greenglass."

The fallout for his uncle and his family (there are two cousins, and now there are Greenglass grandchildren too) has been, in fact, a testament to what would have happened to the Rosenbergs if they had switched sides. "The Greenglasses had to have new names, they have had to live their lives in secrecy, they have lived in fear.

"What my parents gave me and Michael, though, was a life in which we have never had to hide, a life in which we can stand up and be ourselves and do the things we believe in." He pauses. "In a way," he says, "the best revenge is simply living a good life. And that's what I believe I'm doing."

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Robert Rosenberg was interviewed by the Revolutionary Worker magazine on 19th September, 1999.

Q: Your parents were executed for their political beliefs. Could you tell our readers how this happened?

A: My parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were members of the American Communist Party and they were arrested in the summer of 1950 and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. More particularly, they were charged with conspiring to steal the secret of the atomic bomb and give it to the Soviet Union at the end of World War 2. There was no evidence presented at trial that they were directly involved in the transmission of anything to the Soviet Union. Testimony came from alleged co-conspirators, that is, people facing prison sentences or even the death penalty who agreed as part of a government deal to say my parents were involved with these other people.

Q: You've uncovered evidence that shows your parents were framed - what government agencies were involved in this?

A: Back in the 1970s, we sued under the newly strengthened Freedom of Information Act. We asked for the files of the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, Air Force intelligence, Army intelligence, the State Department, etc. I think we asked for information from 17 different agencies and we got information from all of them. This whole effort sort of went across-the-board of the government bureaucracy. We got a lot of previously secret documents. And what did these previously secret documents show? They demonstrated that my parents did not get a fair trial - that the trial judge was in secret communication with the prosecutors before, during and after the trial; that the trial judge, according to FBI documents, had actually agreed to give a death penalty to at least my father and possibly to both of my parents before the defense even began to present its case; and that the trial judge interfered with the appeals process and kept the FBI informed of developments during the appeals process and was actually pushing for a rapid execution even when he was sitting on further appeals in the case.

The chief prosecution witnesses, David and Ruth Greenglass and Harry Gold, all changed their stories. In their initial statements, for instance, David Greenglass said Ethel Rosenberg wasn't involved in anything. Then during the trial he testified that Ethel Rosenberg was present during their meetings and typed up the minutes to their meetings. We also have files showing that a few weeks before the trial the prosecuting attorneys, in briefing some of the Congressmen who were involved with the Atomic Energy Commission, stated that the case against Ethel Rosenberg was virtually non-existent but they had to develop a case against her in order to get a stiff prison sentence - to convince my father to cooperate. And then a few days later David and Ruth Greenglass gave the new statements that she typed up the minutes - and then that became the evidence that led to her conviction.

Q: Why do you think the government was so determined to execute your parents?

A: My parents were unknown. They were just two poor people, members of the Communist Party living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Then they got arrested and charged with being master atomic spies. When my father refused to name other people, then they arrested my mother to get him to name other people. As the National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case grew and as the defense that my parents mounted through their letters grew, articulating the fact that it was all based on phony government frame-ups, they became more and more dangerous. General Lesley Groves, who was the military general in charge of the production of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos in New Mexico - where my parents supposedly engineered the stealing of the secret of the atomic bomb - said he believed that the information that went out in the Rosenberg case was of minor value but he'd never want anybody to say that because he felt in the greater scheme of things that the Rosenbergs deserved to hang.

Q; What happened to you and your brother Michael after your parents were executed?

A: The FBI came to my parents very soon after the arrest and said, essentially, talk or die. They said think about what will happen to your children if you don't talk - and if you talk, Julius, you'll have a prison term and Ethel, you'll be released and you can take care of the kids. Well, they offered the same deal to David and Ruth Greenglass, who also had two kids, and they took the deal. So Greenglass got a prison sentence and Ruth was never indicted and never spent a day in jail even though she swore she helped steal the secret of the atomic bomb. Quite a contrast with my mother.

There were so many people who put themselves on the line to save me when I was a kid that I grew up with the most abiding respect for anybody who would take a chance in order to make this society a better place for all of us. So I grew up sort of as a child of the movement and it was no accident that I got involved first in civil rights and then anti-war stuff and then ultimately SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) in college.

Q: You've published letters your parents wrote to you from prison. Is there anything about them you could share with us?

A: My parents' last letter to me and my brother stands out for me. They wrote that they died secure in the knowledge that others would carry on after them. And I think that has multiple meanings. I think it meant, on a personal level to me and my brother, that other people would take care of us after they were no longer able to do so. But I also think it meant on the political level their political beliefs, the principles that they stood up for, their refusal to lie, their refusal to be pawns of the McCarthyite hysteria, in other words their refusal to be used to attack the movements that they believed in - that even though they were no longer able to carry on those struggles, others would be able to carry them on their absence. And I saw that as a call for me to do the same. And in some ways I've dedicated my life to carrying on in their absence. The Rosenberg Fund for Children is my effort to justify that trust.

The Rosenberg Fund for Children is a public foundation that provides for the educational and emotional needs of children in this country whose parents have been targeted in the course of their progressive activities. What that actually means is that we find people today in this country who are suffering the same kind of attacks that my parents suffered and if they have children we provide the kind of assistance that my brother and I were provided with. We connect them with progressive institutions so the kids can be raised in a supportive environment.

Some of them are the children of political prisoners, whether they be Puerto Rican nationalists, whether they be ex-Black Panthers, whether they be white revolutionaries, whether they be people who have fought against racial discrimination or sexual harassment on the job and been fired, whether they be activists who have been bombed, maimed, killed in the course of their activism. There are people like this all over the country who have either been attacked by government forces of repression or right-wing non-governmental oppression or what I call corporate harassment by corporations trying to fight against their progressive work. We just had our ninth anniversary. We gave away $100,000 to help slightly over 100 children in 1998. We've really been growing by leaps and bounds. The demands upon us have been increasing and we'll probably give away $150,000 this year.

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  • 3 years later...

Interesting article by Jon Wiener in The Nation (21st December, 1998):

Two scientists at Los Alamos, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall, did convey valuable atomic information to the Soviets; but neither had any connection to the Communist Party...

Moynihan makes it clear that when the FBI put Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on trial for atomic espionage in March 1951, it had already learned, in May 1950, the real atomic secrets had been given to the Soviets by Theodore Hall... Hall was never charged with espionage and eventually moved to Britain, where he lived a long and happy life, while the United States executed the Rosenbergs for stealing "the secret of the a-bomb".

The decoded Soviet cables show that Ethel Rosenberg was not a Soviet spy and that, while Julius had passed non-atomic information to the Soviets, the trial case against them was largely fabricated... Why didn't the FBI go after Hall? Did the government execute the Rosenbergs and let Hall go because it didn't want to admit it had prosecuted the wrong people as atom spies?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I know this isn't germaine to the questions raised here. When I was 4 years old my parents took me to Madison Square Garden where a few thousand people had gathered in protest of the execution of the Rosenbergs. I remember it mostly because there were so many people, and all much taller than me. By that time my parents had left the communist party, having been forced out by party officials. But they were still staunch communists.

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I know this isn't germaine to the questions raised here. When I was 4 years old my parents took me to Madison Square Garden where a few thousand people had gathered in protest of the execution of the Rosenbergs. I remember it mostly because there were so many people, and all much taller than me. By that time my parents had left the communist party, having been forced out by party officials. But they were still staunch communists.

I think it was understandable for people with a deep political consciousness to join the American Communist Party. It is also true that those on the left tended to believe Stalin with his views that Trotsky was attempting to overthrow communism in the Soviet Union. However, it must have been very difficult to remain party members after the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Do you know when your parents left the party?

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I do know John - it was 1951 give or take a year. You are right about Stalin. My parents repeated to me often that Stalin had to make the deal with Hitler in order to by time. Their Jewish friends were unable to convince them that Stalin was a monster. In part I blame Robeson, after whom I was named, and whom my parents and others trusted. When they left the party it was not because they had seen the light. The actual story is revealing in and of itself though, so I might as well tell it. My father was sent by the party to talk some sense into an Italian grocer in east Harlem (where we lived) who claimed he had been robbed by a black youth. When my father returned from that mission he reported that the grocer was telling the truth. Sticking up for racial equality was important for my parents, but lying was not an option. The local party leaders came to our apartment and asked my mother to stay in the party while asking my dad to leave. This event is etched in my memory even though I had no idea what was happening. I was probably 3 years old. Needless to say they both left the party after that, but clouded by their idealism they continued to believe in the Soviet Union for years. Our best friend at that time, and the godfather of my younger brother, turned out to be an FBI agent. My parents, harmless idealists in every way, had quite an FBI file as it turned out. When I was a teenager nosily looking through my dad's desk I found a long questionaire that the FBI had sent to my dad when he applied for a civil service job. In it they referred to my mother by a name I had only heard in my house. When I confronted my dad about the letter he told me the story about his stool pigeon friend and the transistor radio/tape recorder he carried around.

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