March 29, 1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage.

Both of the Rosenbergs were proven Communists, but the main witness who provided the evidence that the couple had been passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union was a man named David Greenglass - Ethel’s own brother. Greenglass recanted much of his testimony in later years.¬†Strong doubts about the fairness of the conviction and sentence arose after sentencing and remain to this day, but the Rosenbergs soon became the only American civilians to be executed for espionage during the Cold War. Judge Irving Kaufman made this famous statement to go along with the controversial sentencing that he delivered one week after the conviction:

"But in your case, I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country."

Meanwhile, as the Rosenbergs awaited their execution, prominent figures like Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Einstein, Fritz Lang, Pablo Picasso, and even Pope Pius XII voiced their opposition to the sentence; nevertheless, the couple was executed in July of 1953. 

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