June 19, 1953- Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. The couple had been convicted in espionage based on the testimony of Ethel’s younger brother, David Greenglass. The execution is the first time a woman is punished by death since the civil war era. The Rosenberg case has been the subject of intent debate for over 60 years with supporters and critics sticking to their respective positions. Because all of the major figures from that case and era deceased, the full truth about what really happened may never be known. However, Sam Roberts has put together this incredible book about the Rosenberg and Greenglass families and the connections to the NKGB, the Soviet intelligence apparatus. It is primarily the story of David Greenglass and his relationship with Julius Rosenberg, who in turn had forged connections with other important scientist and blue-collar individuals also passing along military secrets to the Soviet Union.
One of the biggest questions about the case is how could David and Ruth testify in the manner in which they did, knowing it could send Julius and Ethel to the electric chair? By meticulously researching the history of both families, the official transcripts from the courts and even interviewing David himself, we are able to get a more complete picture of how their mission collapsed and why David and Ruth gave the statements they did. Their actions force us to examine our relationships with siblings and even ask ourselves if we could give testimony that would mean death for our brother or sister. The trial and conviction of Julius and Ethel allows us to travel back and time to the McCarthy era when almost anyone who displayed either left-wing tendencies or empathy towards the Soviet Union, was branded as a communist. The communist paranoia and hunt for moles, destroyed countless lives and careers and nearly crippled the Central Intelligence Agency before director William Colby in 1974, moved to remove the Chief of Counterintelligence, James J. Angleton.
The Rosenberg case will forever remain a critical part of American history and cause many of us to ask whether they deserved death and just how honest were David and Ruth in their statements. And had the defense known about the many inconsistencies in both David and Ruth’s account, would Julius and Ethel had been spared? Some may argue that at this point in time, it no longer matters and for today’s generation, the Rosenbergs are nothing more than relics in a mostly forgotten time in American history. But for students of history and believers in patriotism and democracy, this book is an invaluable insight into one of the biggest cases of the 20th century.