Meeropol, Robert 1947(?)-
MEEROPOL, Robert 1947(?)-
Born c. 1947; son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; married; two children. Education: University of Michigan, B.S. (anthropology); earned J.D., 1985.
Office—Rosenberg Fund for Children, 116 Pleasant St. Suite 3312, Easthampton, MA 01027.
Attorney, author, and activist. Admitted to the Massachusetts Bar, c. 1985; practicing attorney until 1990. Rosenberg Fund for Children, executive director.
We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1975, 2nd edition, foreword by Eric Foner, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1987.
An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Robert Meeropol is the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, American communists who were executed in 1953 by the U.S. government for conspiring to steal the secret of the atomic bomb and pass it on to the Soviet Union. During a time when McCarthyite hysteria plagued the nation, Meeropol remembers what it was like growing up on Manhattan's Lower East Side and having his parents arrested and ultimately executed for their political beliefs. As he told an interviewer for the Revolutionary Worker online, the Rosenbergs "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 II. 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."
In addition to waging, with his brother Michael Meeropol, a successful lawsuit to gain access to government documents regarding his parents' case, Meeropol joined his brother in writing We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, published in 1975. Reflecting the emotional turmoil and youth of its authors, the book was described by New York Times Book Review contributor Christopher Lehmann-Haupt as "patchy," with a confused text that "reads more like an anthology of prison letters, autobiographical sketches and political credos than a coherent statement of any sort." Reviewing an expanded edition of the book, published in 1987, New York Times Book Review reviewer Laura Mansnerus maintained that the brothers' "workmanlike narrative … is still the most compelling part, a testament of Communists and their children in a receding era."
In An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey a more mature Meeropol once again reflects on his story, this time starting with his childhood as his parents were taken from him age three and executed when he was only six years old. He recalls the confusion surrounding his parents' death, as he and his brother found themselves in a new home with Abel and Anne Meeropol, a couple sympathetic to the Rosenberg's plight. After describing a childhood in quiet and peaceful neighborhood in New Jersey and New York, Meeropol chronicles the challenges and political activism of his own life, inspired by a need to avenge his parents' senseless deaths. Trained as an attorney, he describes the process by which he and his brother sued several government agencies in an attempt to obtain the files used as evidence against their parents, and his ultimate win under the Freedom of Information Act. Despite a great deal of information to the contrary—much of it released by Soviet sources following the fall of communism in the late 1990s, Meeropol contends that these files offer irrefutable proof that the government did indeed target and harass the Rosenbergs and numerous others, as well as intentionally execute political opponents. In closing, Meeropol describes setting out on his own course of political and civil rights activism, a course established during his college days when he was active in the radical Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS.
A reviewer in Publishers Weekly called An Execution in the Family a "heart-wrenching, honest memoir," while in the New York Times Book Review Dorothy Gallagher took a more circumspect view. Meeropol's "touchingly sincere memoir," the critic noted, "reflects less the journey of his title than a lifetime of struggle to keep the same foothold on ever more slippery ground." Calling Meeropol a "faithful son," Gallagher argued that he mistakenly refuses to acknowledge his father's Soviet sympathies, although he has accepted their participation in espionage: "Finally, however, he was forced to reflect that innocence wasn't everything. 'Whatever actions' his parents 'took sprang from their love of humanity, not from a particular allegiance to the Soviet Union,'" Gallagher quotes Meeropol as acknowledging.
Since the early 1990s Meeropol has served as the executive director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, an organization founded to aid children like himself, whose parents are killed in progressive activities. The program seeks to provide these children with financial assistance, in addition to placing them in a supportive environment after the death of their parents. Looking forward from September 11th, he has expressed concern over a perceived growth of a new McCarthyism. "For me, I have figured out a way to transform the terrible thing that happened to my parents into something positive that I can do with my life and help others," he explained in his Revolutionary Worker interview. "I figured out what I would call positive revenge."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2003, David Pitt, review of An Execution in the Family: One Son's Journey, p.1 560.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of An Execution in the Family, p. 59.
Library Journal, April 15, 2003, Duncan Stewart, review of An Execution in the Family, p. 96.
Monthly Review, October 1987, Staughton Lynd, review of We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, p. 48.
Newsweek, October 3, 1983, p. 16.
New York Times Book Review, May 23, 1975, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of We Are Your Sons, p. 23; March 29, 1987, Laura Mansnerus, review of We Are Your Sons, p. 23; September 21, 2003, Dorothy Gallagher, review of An Execution in the Family, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2003, review of An Execution in the Family, p. 213.
Washington Post Book World, July 6, 1975, Victor S. Navasky, review of We Are Your Sons, p. 3.
Revolutionary Worker Online,http://www.rwor.org/ (September 19, 1999), interview with Meeropol.
Rosenberg Fund for Children Web site,http://www.rfc.org/ (April 14, 2004).*