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

In August of 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first successful nuclear weapons test when it detonated RDS-1, or First Lightning (Joe-1 to the United States) in Kazakhstan; when President Truman notified the American public of this new and shocking (and shockingly, suspiciously fast, in the eyes of the West) development in September of 1949, the nations were thrust into a nuclear arms race. In 1950, a German physicist named Klaus Fuchs was arrested by British authorities, who revealed him to be an atomic spy for the Soviets, having supposedly supplied for the Soviet program atomic research from the United States. Fuchs, in turn, identified Swiss-born chemist Harry Gold as his courier, and Gold’s confessions led authorities to David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, Army machinist for the Manhattan Project, and Soviet spy. 

The Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius, joined the American Communist Party in 1942. In June of 1950, Julius was arrested after being named by Greenglass as a spy, and Ethel was arrested shortly after in August; their trial began on March 6, 1951, and throughout their testimonies neither would speak on anything that might incriminate other members of the Communist Party. Both were convicted of espionage and sentenced to death under the Espionage Act of 1917; Irving Kaufman, the judge who imposed their sentences, famously remarked:

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…

Many Americans undoubtedly agreed with Kaufman’s condemnations, yet still the Rosenbergs had their supporters, among them Jean-Paul Sartre, who criticized Americans’ hysteria, accusing them of being “afraid of the shadow of [their] own bomb”; Pablo Picasso, who called the Rosenbergs’ impending execution a “crime against humanity”; and many others, including Frida Kahlo, Albert Einstein, and Bertolt Brecht. Even the Pope implored President Eisenhower to commute the couple’s death sentence, to no avail - on June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg became the first and only American civilians to be executed for espionage during the Cold War. It remains unclear how much the Rosenberg’s treason actually advanced Soviet atomic research, or whether Ethel was actually guilty of any treason (her participation and guilt were vehemently denied by their two surviving children). 

  1. arashi32900 reblogged this from unhistorical
  2. wolves4ever reblogged this from wtfhistory
  3. jadedstories reblogged this from wtfhistory and added:
    Historians pretty much accept at this point that both were guilty of treason. While Ethel may not have actively given...
  4. pecant reblogged this from wtfhistory
  5. badwolfday reblogged this from wtfhistory
  6. cthulhu-with-a-fez reblogged this from wtfhistory
  7. grexyhousecat reblogged this from emir-dynamite
  8. kullinaama reblogged this from mitchellhughes
  9. ood-in-the-nude reblogged this from unhistorical
  10. bigm23 reblogged this from unhistorical
  11. willowispschopsticks reblogged this from unhistorical
  12. dougcmatthews reblogged this from unhistorical
  13. motorcycleboys reblogged this from gurllotine
  14. gurllotine reblogged this from unhistorical
  15. misfitsandhipsters reblogged this from unhistorical
  16. structuringstructure reblogged this from unhistorical
  17. jackreeds reblogged this from unhistorical
  18. infinite-all reblogged this from living-inthe-past
  19. living-inthe-past reblogged this from unhistorical
  20. purplexeyed reblogged this from unhistorical
  21. whitegurrrlproblems reblogged this from unhistorical
  22. notoch0rd reblogged this from thelateman and added:
    I made him a swindler
  23. luebes reblogged this from unhistorical