Ethel Rosenberg

Posted: July 23, 2008 in Blame a Dame, Cold War Bunny, Espionage, Treason
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Ethel Rosenberg (1915-1953) and her husband, Julius, were executed for espionage in the early days of the Cold War. As documents related to the case are now becoming declassified, one has to ask: Ethel Rosenberg, Spy-Dame or Dame Blamed?

Ethel Greenglass was born to New York City Jewish immigrants in 1915. She dreamed of being an entertainer, but became instead a secretary. She showed her chutzpah by becoming involved in labor movements and joining the Young Communist League, where she met Julius Rosenberg and eventually married.

Julius, who worked as a radio operator for the US Army Signal Corps, spied for the Soviet Union as early as 1942 and passed along classified radio reports. This is not under dispute. What is under dispute is whether nuclear secrets were in fact involved and the extent to which his wife, Ethel, was complicit.

The main case against Ethel rests on Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, a worker at the Los Alamos facility where the Manhattan Project was underway. David was involved in the spying operation with Julius and when David was arrested and had the screws put to him, David gave up the Rosenbergs. Initially he stated that his sister, Ethel, was not involved and that he had been recruited by his brother-in-law Julius. He changed his tune however and later provided incriminating testimony that Ethel was in up to her ears and had employed her typing skills in translating notes to be passed along to the KGB.

We all know how the story ends in that Rosenbergs were convicted and sentenced to death. A world-wide media circus ensued and did nothing to prevent the inevitable which was the Rosenberg’s execution by the electric chair in 1953.

Ethel Rosenberg was executed June 19, 1953. Because of this skirt’s diminutive stature, the components of the electric chair did not fit her properly and resulted in this poor broad being electrocuted not one but three times! Witnesses claim to have seen smoke rising for Ethel’s head. How lovely that must have been for her. The Rosenberg’s ostracized children were adopted by the amazingly altruistic songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife.

So flash forward 50+ years and here’s what’s going down: David Greenglass has recanted his testimony. How fabulous…for him. Fearing for the safety of his wife and children, David claims he was pressured by prosecutors to implicate his sister Ethel. It is speculated that with Ethel in their sights, the prosecution could use her as leverage against Julius to give up the whole kit and caboodle, which, as we know, never came to be. Newly released documents are showing that the prosecution never really had a case against Ethel.

Ethel’s dear brother, David Greenglass, however, is alive and well. Having only served 10 years in prison for his involvement, David went back to wife and children living under an assumed identity.

Here’s hoping the chap continues to have a wonderfully long life ahead of him-like the one he denied his sister.


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