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Rosenberg Case

Rosenberg Case, in U.S. history, a lengthy and controversial espionage case. In 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Julius Rosenberg (1918–53), an electrical engineer who had worked (1940–45) for the U.S. army signal corps, and his wife Ethel (1916–53); they were indicted for conspiracy to transmit classified military information to the Soviet Union. In the trial that followed (Mar., 1951), the government charged that in 1944 and 1945 the Rosenbergs had persuaded Ethel's brother, David Greenglass—an employee at the Los Alamos atomic bomb project—to provide them and a third person, Harry Gold, with top-secret data on nuclear weapons. The chief evidence against the Rosenbergs came from Greenglass and his wife, Ruth.

Both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty (1951) and received the death sentence; Morton Sobell, a codefendant, received a 30-year prison term, as did Harry Gold; and David Greenglass was later sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Despite many court appeals and pleas for executive clemency, the Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953. They became the first U.S. civilians to suffer the death penalty in an espionage trial.

The case aroused much controversy. Many claimed that the political climate made a fair trial impossible and that the only seriously incriminating evidence had come from a confessed spy; others questioned the value of the information transmitted to the Soviet Union and argued that the death penalty was too severe. Communists in the United States and abroad organized a campaign to save the Rosenbergs and received the support of many liberals and religious leaders.

See L. Nizer, The Implosion Conspiracy (1973); R. Radosh and J. Milton, The Rosenberg File (1984); R. and M. Meeropol, We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (2d ed. 1986); S. Roberts, The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair (2001); W. Schneir, Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case (2010); A. M. Hornblum, The Invisible Harry Gold (2010).

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Rosenberg Case

ROSENBERG CASE

ROSENBERG CASE. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed for World War II atomic espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, were first exposed as spies after an investigation into security leaks from Los Alamos, New Mexico. As a result of this investigation, Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist; Harry Gold, a courier; and David Greenglass, an army machinist, had all confessed to espionage. The latter implicated his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg. Although the evidence against Ethel was thinner, the FBI arrested her in the hope that Julius would also confess. Tried along with Morton So-bell, who was sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment, the Rosenbergs were convicted in April 1951 and sentenced to die. The most damning testimony came from Green-glass, who received a fifteen-year sentence, and his wife, Ruth.

A worldwide campaign to save the Rosenbergs emphasized the fate of their two young children and charged that the evidence was manufactured and the trial and sentence tainted by anti-Semitism. Nonetheless, they were executed at Sing Sing Prison on 19 June 1953. The release


of FBI files on the case in the late 1970s confirmed that Julius had headed a large ring of industrial spies and that Ethel was aware of his activities but had played only a minor role in the espionage, conclusions reinforced by decrypted Soviet cables released in 1995 and by revelations from Julius's KGB controller, Alexander Feklisov.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Radosh, Ronald, and Joyce Milton. The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth. 2d. ed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997. Contains revelations from National Security Agency and Soviet sources.

HarveyKlehr

See alsoAnticommunism ; Cold War ; Subversion, Communist .

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Rosenberg Case

Rosenberg Case (1951–53) US espionage case. A New York couple, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were found guilty of passing atomic bomb secrets to Soviet agents. They became the first civilians executed for espionage.

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