Why the Rosenbergs Were Executed

Police booking photograph of Julius Rosenberg after his arrest.

Police booking photograph of Julius Rosenberg after his arrest.

She was a mature woman, “almost three years older than her husband and” – despite much evidence to the contrary – “she was a full-fledged partner in this crime.”

But the charges brought against the Rosenbergs have been proven false. The Rosenbergs did not give an atomic bomb to the Soviets. Julius received information from his brother-in-law, David Greenglass. Greenglass, who was an Army mechanic and did not have the training to understand the documents.

Scholars still debate the value of the documents that the Rosenbergs provided the Soviets. It is likely that there was little to no new information in the documents they provided.

Julius did run a large spy ring which sent U.S. military secrets to the Soviet Union from 1944– 1950. Judge Kaufman used this to justify the death sentences. Kaufman also conferred with the State Department, which hoped that the death penalty would scare the Rosenbergs into confessing and naming the other spies in the network.

The FBI was ready to listen until their final moments. The Rosenbergs called their bluff and took their secrets to the grave.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where the Rosenbergs were executed. Photo Credit.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where the Rosenbergs were executed. Photo Credit.

Historians disagree on why the North Koreans invaded South Korea, but they do agree that the Soviets had nothing to do with it. Stalin rejected North Korea’s invasion plan, even after the Soviet test of an atomic bomb, though he eventually relented after the communist victory in China.

The 1951 trial was a mess, plagued with irregularities and illegalities. Truman’s Justice Department prosecution team committed acts of misconduct, the judge violated the judicial code of ethics, the defense performed its duties with great incompetence, and the Supreme Court’s subsequent review of the case proved inadequate. After President Eisenhower twice denied them clemency, prison officials electrocuted the couple on June 19th, 1953.

The executions were harmful to the reputation of the U.S. around the world. They triggered protests in 84 cities in 48 countries around the world. Even its allies saw the executions as senseless violence caused by paranoia about the spread of Communism. Protesters accused the U.S. officials of allowing that fear to cloud their judgment.