Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
On March 6, 1951, the trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins in New York. Judge Irving R. Kaufman presides over the espionage prosecution of the couple accused of selling nuclear secrets to the Russians (treason could not be charged because the U.S. was not at war with the Soviet Union).
David Greenglass was a machinist at Los Alamos, New Mexico where the U.S. developed the atomic bomb. Julius Rosenberg, his brother-in-law, was a member of the American Communist Party and was fired from his government job during the Red Scare. According to Greenglass, Rosenberg asked him to pass highly confidential instructions on making atomic weapons to the Soviet Union. These materials were transferred to the Russians by Harry Gold, an acquaintance of Greenglass. The Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb (and effectively started the Cold War) in September 1949 based on information, they had obtained from spies. The only direct evidence of the Rosenberg's involvement was the confession of Greenglass. The left-wing community believed that the Rosenberg’s were prosecuted because of their membership in the Communist Party. Their case became the cause célèbre of leftists throughout the nation. The trial lasted nearly a month, finally ending on April 4th with convictions for all the defendants. The Rosenberg’s were sentenced to death. Sobell received a thirty-year sentence. Greenglass received fifteen years for his cooperation. Reportedly, the Rosenberg’s were offered a deal in which their death sentences would be commuted in return for an admission of their guilt. They refused and were executed on June 19, 1953.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: