SEPT / OCT 2016: BY LILA DONOVAN
What makes people become traitors? It’s understandable when people defect a country that’s fallen under a corrupt government and want to seek a better life away from tyranny and chaos. When Europe fell under the control of Hitler and the Nazis during World War II, those that could leave Nazi occupied countries did leave.
However, it’s difficult to understand why citizens would betray a first world country like the United States. America is wealthy, with a high quality of life and endless opportunities; many people try to immigrate here.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the first American citizens executed for spying in peacetime. When they married, they were both active members of the community party. Julius got a job as an engineer with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and both passed on American secrets to the Soviet Union.
Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, later helped them because he was a machinist to the Manhattan Project. He passed on private information to the Rosenbergs, who sent it to Harry Gold, who informed a Soviet agent.
In 1949, the Soviet Union detonated their first atomic bomb and the U.S. government wanted to know how. They launched a massive investigation. They caught David Greenglass first, who confessed his involvement. They arrested Julius, then came for his wife several weeks later.
The Rosenbergs claimed they were innocent even though there was proof against them. The couple gained sympathized supporters and appeals put off their execution for two years. Sing Sing Prison executed them on June 19, 1953 in the electric chair. Julius went first. The couple left behind two children, Michael and Robert. They had no relatives that wanted them, but a high school teacher Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne adopted them. The children changed their last names to Meeropol.
The majority of the American public at the time agreed the United States government dealt with them justly. Some people were still skeptical, including their children. Eventually a former spy offered information that convinced the children their father was guilty.
David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother, has admitted that he lied under oath to save himself, his wife, and his children. He died in 2014, though, estranged from his niece and nephew. The Rosenbergs’ children now believe their father was a spy, but their mom is innocent and want to see the U.S. government exonerate her. They set up a website campaigning for their mom to be exonerated.
Whether the U.S. government will revisit this case and exonerate Ethel remains to be seen. The Rosenberg case is an interesting example of how our actions can have consequences that don’t just impact ourselves but can affect our loved ones too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lila Donovan is a Christian and a university student. She loves to read, draw, write, and has a blog.