Exoneration sought for Ethel Rosenberg, executed as spy in 1953

  • Robert Meeropol talks about the proclamation the Rosenberg Fund For Children is advocating for that would declare Ethel Rosenberg's conviction unjust and wrongful. —Gazette Staff/ CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jennifer Meeropol talks about the proclamation the Rosenberg Fund For Children is advocating for that would declare Ethel Rosenberg's conviction unjust and wrongful. —Gazette Staff/ CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jennifer Meeropol and her father, Robert Meeropol, talk Thursday at the offices of the Rosenberg Fund for Children in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/ CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jennifer Meeropol and her father Robert Meeropol talk about the proclamation the Rosenberg Fund For Children is advocating for that would declare Ethel Rosenberg's conviction unjust and wrongful. —Gazette Staff/ CAROL LOLLIS

  • Robert Meeropol talks about the proclamation the Rosenberg Fund For Children is advocating for that would declare Ethel Rosenberg's conviction unjust and wrongful. —Gazette Staff/ CAROL LOLLIS

  • ETHEL and JULIUS ROSENBERG

  • A proclamation issued by the New York City Council declaring Sept. 28, 2015, the Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice is shown at the Rosenberg Fund For Children’s offices in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jennifer Meeropol talks about the proclamation the Rosenberg Fund For Children is advocating for that would declare Ethel Rosenberg's conviction unjust and wrongful. —Gazette Staff/ CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2016 10:31:59 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Michael Meeropol was just 10 years old when his mother and father, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage. His brother, Robert, was 6.

It was 1953, during the McCarthy era of widespread anti-communist panic. The Rosenbergs were convicted of passing secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union, and were sentenced to die in the electric chair. It was one of the most notable cases of that time.

However, Robert Meeropol said there is evidence that proves his mother’s trial was perjured and wrongful. The charges against Ethel Rosenberg and the threat of the death penalty, according to Meeropol, was meant to intimidate Julius Rosenberg into cooperating. Meeropol said his mother was executed for being a “master atomic spy.”

“She wasn’t a spy,” he said last week.

Sixty-three years after the execution, the Meeropol brothers are calling on the Obama administration to issue a proclamation exonerating Ethel Rosenberg before the president leaves office.

“What we’re asking (Obama) to say is, false evidence was used to convict her, therefore her conviction was unjust, and her sentence and her execution was wrongful,” Robert Meeropol said.

To that end, an online petition was launched in March on the Rosenberg Fund for Children website, an Easthampton organization founded by Robert Meeropol in 1990 to help children of targeted activists. The campaign is just shy of 12,000 signatures, but Meeropol and his daughter, Jennifer Meeropol, who is also the fund’s executive director, said they hope the numbers increase after the election to 50,000 or even 100,000 people.

Among the notable political activists who have signed the petition are Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Angela Davis and Ed Asner.

“We think we have a really compelling case,” Jennifer Meeropol said.

The Meeropol brothers have been investigating their parents’ case for decades. In 2008, grand jury documents from the Rosenberg trial were released — excluding the testimony of a chief prosecution witness, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass.

Greenglass’ testimony was made public in 2015, about a year after his death. According to Robert Meeropol, the material from his uncle’s testimony, along with the records previously released, proves his mother was wrongfully prosecuted.

At the trial, Greenglass contradicted sworn grand jury testimony by describing Ethel Rosenberg at secret meetings, according to Robert Meeropol, and that he saw his sister typing up handwritten notes to give to the Soviets. Greenglass’ grand jury testimony makes no mention of Ethel’s presence at the meetings. 

In 2001, Greenglass admitted that his testimony at the Rosenberg trial was false — lies that ultimately killed his sister.

In September 2015, a few months after the Greenglass testimony was released, Ethel Rosenberg was honored by New York City officials who issued a proclamation on what would have been her 100th birthday. The Manhattan borough president declared the day the “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice.”

“FBI documents reveal that chief prosecution witnesses David and Ruth Greenglass provided no evidence against Ethel Rosenberg in their initial confessions,” the proclamation states. “FBI documents show that members of the prosecution team determined that she should be convicted with a ‘stiff sentence’ and be used as a ‘lever’ to induce her husband to cooperate.”

After the Nov. 8 election, Jennifer and Robert Meeropol said, they hope to get the word out nationwide about the questions of perjured testimony that resulted in Ethel’s execution as well as prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.

“Saying ‘if you don’t cooperate, we are going to kill your wife’ is a perversion of our democracy,” Jennifer Meeropol said. “It’s something that calls for a presidential proclamation for the injustice that was done.”

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy