Ethel Rosenberg

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Ethel Rosenberg

Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (New York, September 28, 1915 – June 19, 1953) and Julius Rosenberg (New York, May 12, 1918 – 19 June 1953) was a United States of America marriage executed on the electric chair accused of espionage. It was the first execution for espionage of civilians in the history of the United States.

Born into the Jewish family, Julius Rosenberg was an electrical engineer, while his wife Ethel was an aspiring actress and singer. Both were part of the Young Communist League, the youths of the Communist Party of the United States.

The origin of the trial and execution of this marriage must be sought in the leaks of nuclear secrets occurred both at the Los Alamos nuclear research center and at the University of Berkeley, where there was an important sympathetic sector of the left, especially among scientists. A former machinist from the Los Alamos super-secret center, Sergeant David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother, confessed to passing on secrets to the Russians and also accused his sister and her husband, a confession that led directly to the Rosenberg couple. He was arrested, charged and tried for espionage.

Even today, it is considered that the trial to which both were subjected was far from being fair. Certain or not the accusations of espionage, both were executed under the Espionage Act of 1917, which dictated the death penalty for this type of crime in time of war, although at the time of the alleged espionage, the United States I was not at war with the Soviet Union. When comparing this case with others of the same nature, solved with much milder sentences despite more conclusive evidence, as the case of Klaus Fuchs, sentenced to 14 years in prison after spying on the United States in favor of the Union Soviet, there is a greater grievance, driven by the anti-communist environment and the prevailing fear in American society to an imminent confrontation with the Soviet Union which would have originated the “McCarthyism.” It is necessary to consider that at that time the Korean War was lived (June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953). This was a conflict between North Korea (communist) and South Korea (capitalist), but at the same time it was an unofficial war between the United States and the Soviet Union, in the context of the Cold War. That is why, in the trial, Rosenberg was accused of having revealed the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviets, giving rise to the nuclear balance with the Soviets and holding them responsible for the numerous American casualties during the Korean War. .

Both were finally executed in the electric chair on June 19, 1953, and, according to the chronicles of the case, although Julius died at the first discharge, his wife Ethel, despite being a smaller woman and supposedly fragile, it resisted up to three electric shocks before dying, a fact that was responsible for the design of the chair, built for a person of greater scope and whose electrodes apparently did not fit “properly” to the body of the woman.

Years later, in 1966, David Greenglass, brother of Ethel, who spent 10 years in prison and had been sentenced to only 15 years in prison for his confession and collaboration, said he falsely accused his sister and brother-in-law under FBI threats. In the memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev, published posthumously in 1990, the former Soviet prime minister praises the Rosenberg couple for their “very significant help in accelerating the production of our atomic bomb”, but analysts believe that the validity of their contribution could not be so important. In 1995, after the end of the Cold War, various investigations of the FBI and the US intelligence services, integrated into the “Venona Project,” seem to have found evidence that Julius Rosenberg worked for the Soviet espionage services, but not his wife Ethel. This unfortunate fact showed that the country was persecuting all those who had signs of sympathizing with the left and communism, arguing national defense and the fight against espionage, even calling into question the freedom of thought.

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