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Inside The Paranoid Fueled Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was executed for spying for the Soviet Union

By Chukwuebuka Published 3 months ago 3 min read

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were an American couple accused of espionage for the Soviet Union, including providing top-secret information regarding American radar, sonar, jet propulsion engines, and nuclear weapon designs. Convicted of espionage in 1951, they were executed by the federal government of the United States in 1953 at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, becoming the first American civilians to be executed for espionage.

Their Life Before the War

Ethel Greenglass, who was born to a Jewish family in New York City on September 25, 1915, joined the Young Communist League in 1936, where she met her future husband, Julius Rosenberg.

the couple

Julius Rosenberg was born on May 12, 1918, to Jewish immigrants from Soviet Russia who moved to Manhattan's Lower East Side when he was 11 years old. Rosenberg attended Seward Park High and then City College of New York, where he studied electrical engineering, while his family worked in local shops.

Julius Rosenberg was a college student during the Great Depression when he became a leader in the Young Communist League and met the love of his life.

Julius Rosenberg earned a degree in electrical engineering and married Ethel Rosenberg three years later, in 1939. He began his engineering career inside highly sensitive government facilities during the height of World War II secrecy. He already had two sons.

When Julius Rosenberg joined the Army Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1940, he left the Communist Party to evade suspicion.

While working as an engineer and inspector there and conducting research on communications, electronics, radar, and guided-missile controls, he did manage to avoid suspicion for five whole years.

Life as a Spy

On Labor Day 1942, Rosenberg allegedly accepted a Soviet offer of employment and later gave the Soviets access to top-secret information on the Manhattan Project, which was developing the first atomic weapons. He allegedly quickly enlisted a substantial spy network to help him, including Ethel's brother, David Greenglass.

the Manhattan Project was building atomic bomb

David Greenglass worked on the secret Manhattan Project at its lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He had also been a member of the Young Communist League in the past. Rosenberg would get information from Greenglass about the technology being tested at Los Alamos, such as the special lenses used in the bomb. This spy was not discovered until 1949.

At this time, espionage was of the utmost concern to the U.S. government, which feared that the Soviets might obtain crucial intelligence that could give them an advantage in this potentially escalating Cold War.

After World War II's end, the Soviets rushed to build atomic weapons, and on August 29, 1949, they detonated their first atomic bomb. How much of that frightening victory was based on intelligence gathered by Soviet spies in the United States is still a matter of controversy.

David Greenglass

Soviet spies were actually recruiting American scientists for top-secret information, so American anxiety over Soviet infiltration was not entirely unfounded. But the dread often went too far, and perhaps no one went further than Senator Joe McCarthy in his hunt for communists.

McCarthy began making public claims of communist infiltration of the United States government in 1950. In this state of paranoia, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were accused of leaking highly secret information to America's most dangerous adversaries.

The Trial and the Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

After Greenglass identified Julius as the leader of the spy ring, he was arrested on July 17, 1950, and his wife was arrested a month later after additional evidence that pointed to her as an accomplice was uncovered.

Due to the fact that the United States and the U.S.S.R. were not at war at the time, the Rosenbergs could not be tried for treason and were instead convicted on the more vague charge of conspiracy to commit espionage.

Shortly, the prosecution concluded that they had a strong case against the Rosenbergs, if for no other reason than the fact that they could be viewed as communists and Soviet Union sympathizers. In addition to meeting in a communist club of which they were both members, Julius Rosenberg's parents were Russian immigrants.

The trial began on March 6, 1951, in the federal court for the Southern District of New York.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953, at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, after two years on death row.

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