On this day: in history (1951), Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg (née Greenglass) were sentenced to death under Section 2 of the Espionage Act of 1917, which provides that anyone convicted of transmitting or attempting to transmit to a foreign government “information relating to the national defense” may be imprisoned for life or put to death.
The couple were convicted of providing top-secret information about radar, sonar, jet propulsion engines and valuable nuclear weapon designs. They were executed by the federal government of the United States in 1953 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, becoming the first American civilians to be executed for such charges and the first to receive that penalty during peacetime.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, much information concerning them was declassified, including a trove of decoded Soviet cables (code-name: Venona), which detailed Julius’s role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets. Ethel’s role was as an accessory who helped recruit her brother David into the spy ring and did clerical tasks such as typing up documents that Julius then passed to the Soviets. In 2008, the National Archives of the United States published most of the grand jury testimony related to the prosecution of the Rosenbergs. For decades, the Rosenbergs’ sons (Michael and Robert Meeropol) and others, had maintained that Julius and Ethel were innocent of spying on their country and were victims of Cold War paranoia. Not until the above reference documents were released, after the fall of the Soviet Union, did the extent of their crimes come to light.
Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, said in his posthumously published memoir that he “cannot specifically say what kind of help the Rosenbergs provided us” but that he learned from Joseph Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov that they “had provided very significant help in accelerating the production of our atomic bomb.”
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Created by Okey Obiabunmo