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Rosenberg Son Admits Father’s Guilt

If just barely

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Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.(Wikipedia)

Sixty years after his parents Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage and sentenced to death, Robert Meeropol, a lawyer, for the first time publicly acknowledged that his father “was guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage.” It is worth sitting with that for a second—perhaps the final wall of denial to fall in a case that has obsessed the American Jewish community for six decades—before getting to all of what Meeropol won’t admit, which continues to be prodigious. He attributed the admission to a recent Weekly Standard article that contained further revelations of atomic secrets Julius Rosenberg passed to the Soviet Union.

The co-author of that article, Ron Radosh, published a lengthy piece last month in Tablet Magazine exploring why some continue to deny or extenuate over the charges against Julius—who was a spy—and Ethel—who at the least knew of her husband’s activities. Some of this hesitance stems from an honest place: Despite their (and particularly Julius’s) actual guilt, there were several irregularities about the trial. But most of it, especially today, Radosh persuasively argues, stems from the far left’s desire “to maintain their view that the only guilty party was the United States.”

And so to Meeropol, who also said, “The F.B.I., the Justice Department and Judge Kaufman were guilty of a much more serious conspiracy than any my father was involved in,” and has recently written,

Ethel was not a spy and Julius was ignorant of the atomic bomb project. They were innocent of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and they were fighting for their lives. It would have been next to impossible for them to explain to their children and supporters the subtle distinction between not being guilty of stealing atomic secrets and blanket innocence. Given that, I can understand the course of action they took from a political standpoint.

Rosenberg Son Says Father Was Guilty of Spy Charge [City Room]
Related: Cold Case [Tablet Magazine]
The Sobell Confession [The Weekly Standard]

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A son’s devotion to his parents is understandable even if misplaced.

Bill Pearlman says:

My father spent a year in Korea with a million chinese looking to kill him. So did a lot of other American Jewish GI’s. Some of whom didn’t come back. Would the North Koreans have attacked if they hadn’t been backed up by a nuclear Russia. Maybe, but maybe not.

Tony Kushner’s going to have to rewrite Angels in America with Roy Cohn as the hero.

Sara says:

I feel this “admission” could have been adequately garnered from the information in a Nova broadcast called “Secerets, Lies and Atomic Spies.” The fact that Julius attempted to become an informant isn’t arguable but the truth that he possessed no real information was ignored by the prosecutors and government. The implication of Ethel in a similar crime was beyond a stretch of any facts the government new to be true. This is not a case of the son saying, “He did it. He was guilty.”

Meeropol and the left are still making excuses and unable to admit Rosenberg’s guilt, in spite of the extensive evidence that Radosh, Sobell and others have documented, including Soviet sources.

This “true believer” mentality in the face of reality is what makes the left so dangerous. Arthur Koestler in The God that Failed and George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia have portrayed this wonderfully.


I think that the true believer mentality in the face of reality is what makes any Zealot dangerous. It’s got nothing to do with left or right.

Dani ben Leb says:

It would be very interesting to read why there is a hard core of Jews who always work against their very survival. Be it the early Communists, these fools here or Israel’s and the US’s far Jewish left. JVP, the far left renegades in Finkelstein, who’s parents were Survivors or Chomsky.

What is it? What drives these people?

shushan says:

the usa recently released 7 russian deep cover spies after holding them for 1 week.
the Rosenbergs were targetted and murdered by america because they were Jewish

M. Brukhes says:

I would say as a casual and marginal member of the Jewish left that the Jewish left’s obsession with proving the Rosenberg’s innocence is dwarfed and overwhelmed by the Jewish right’s obsession with proving their guilt.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were probably misfit losers with incoherent politics and incompetent ethics, to say nothing of possessing no common sense. As lamentable as these shortcomings are, they aren’t necessarily capital offenses. Roy Cohn undertook a criminal conspiracy to ensure the execution of two people who posed no real danger to the subsequent security of the US and whose actual crimes prolonged the Cold War by less than the 15 minutes of fame Cohn garnered from his misdeeds. I’d love to be able to say “a plague on both of their houses” and treat them as equally reprehensible species of fanaticism and extremism, but the malevolence, calculation, and venality of Cohn and his allies are so much greater than the Rosenbergs’ pathos that even at this late date I see no comparison or equivocation between the two.

Question for the obsessed: those of you who continue to clamor for Rosenberg blood 60 years after their execution–what do you say to Jonathan Pollard’s continuing incarceration for spying on behalf of Israel?

Gibson Block says:

Proving guilt and calling for blood are two different things. I’ll bet that many people who don’t like the denials of guilt and responsibility don’t mind admitting the government’s faults. The problem is that the government’s faults are being used to deny or completely downplay the actions of the spies.

apikoyros says:

@M. Brukhes:
I appreciate that you have your view on this matter. Do you have evidence other than your emotions to support your assessment and accusations? Who, other than Roy Cohn, is that “Jewish right” that you refer to? Perhaps his and some others’ motives weren’t very pure, but the Rosenbergs were hardly the innocents you (and Meeropol) portray. The Rosenbergs, whom you label mere “misfit losers,” did, “intentionally” or not, cause severe damage to America for the sake of their Stalinist god.

Unquestionably, there was antisemitism among Jews and non-Jews alike involved in their prosecution and execution. In light of the manner today of the prosecution efforts and sentencing of the likes of terrorists like Khalil Sheik Muhammad and of non-Jewish Americans who betrayed their country, the Rosenbergs were indeed too hastily sentenced to death when they should have “merely” spent many years in prison — as Pollard already has. But to reassess history to emphasize partisan politics and name some unidentified “Jewish right” guilty of worse villainy is to obscure — as the “left,” Jewish and non-Jewish, has been doing all these years — the very real acts of the very real true-believers who acted to betray their country.

FluffyRoss says:

I’m with shushan. furthermore, what is it with the fixation on the electric chair? How brutal, bizarre, and primitive. And that J. Edgar Hoover? He had clean hands?

M. Brukhes says:

Dear Apikoyros,

I appreciate the nuance and sensitivity of your response, as well as the sophistication of your pseudonym; I suspect as well that your take on the case is really not so different from my own.

By the “Jewish Right,” I mean a small but noisy collection of public intellectuals, most conspicuously present in the musty pages of “Commentary” magazine but also on air in other forums, even our own beloved “Tablet” (please appreciate the facetiousness of this characterization) that continues to obsess over the crimes of Stalinism 20 years after the end of the Cold War. Talk about sore winners! More distressingly, the trauma of the Cold War continues to warp their worldview, so that one reads in print and hears in semi-private conversations monstrous equations between Stalin and his American fellow-travelers and the Obama administration. In the end perhaps there can be no meaningful distinction between a sore winner and a sore loser; both are fueled more by previous resentments than present circumstances.

Beyond the “respectable” face of the Jewish right I’ve been evoking, one can also stumble across what can only be described as a Jewish McCarthyism in full, vulgar, repulsive force on the webpages of any number of blog sites, including this one. All of which is to say, you don’t need me to designate who or what the Jewish Right is; they are out there. They know who they are, and I suspicion, so do you…. A gite vokh!

M. Brukhes says:

One more point that I came across quite at random this afternoon while reading the late Irving Howe’s magnificent memoir “A Margin of Hope,” which I am posting here because I agree with its contents completely (cf pp 215-216):

“Nor was the main problem an exposure of the rhetoric of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted as atom spies and now awaiting electrocution. Robert Warshow in Commentary and Leslie Fiedler in Encounter composed withering highbrow analyses–perverse overkill–of the letters Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had sent each other in prison, letters that were then quickly published. Warshow and Fiedler scored points: who, against the Rosenbergs, could not? Julius had written his wife that he had hung the Declaration of Independence on his cell wall as to ‘read those words concerning free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion,’ whereupon Warshow tartly noted that the Declaration of Independence says not a word about any of these matters. Very well, the Rosenbergs were entrapped in Stalinist devices; but surely at the moment what counted much more was that, innocent or guilty, they were waiting to be killed. Was it not heartless to write in this spirit, even if the Rosenbergs were indeed the poor besotted dupes one took them for? Might not the Commentary writers have pondered Ignazio Silone’s story that his father had once punished him for laughing at the sight of a man arrested by the police since, his father explained, the man might be innocent and in any case was helpless? That the Rosenbergs were innocent I very much doubted; that they were helpless anyone could see. At least Fiedler, to his credit, closed his attack on the Rosenberg letters by saying: ‘Yet despite all this, because of it, they should have been granted mercy.’ In the early fifties mercy was in short supply.”

Dani says:

I don’t think they should be sentenced to death.

Shmatahari says:

According to Mr.Tracy “Ron Radosh published a lengthy piece last month …exploring why some continue to deny …” Well, Radosh did no such thing here last month. His article, unsurprisingly, revealed anything but an attempt to “explore.” The tone of his article was disturbing for its persistent hatred of anyone, like myself, who mistrusts the unbelievable shenanigans that went on in order to get two Lower East Side Jews (the bedrock of Communism in America according to the Overman Committee way back in 1918) into electric chairs as quickly as possible. If I remember correctly, Klaus Fuchs had already confessed to giving Stalin our bomb and HE was not executed for that act even though HE was actually a physicist working alongside Oppie at Los Alamos. No one, to this very day, has ever been executed for spying, or “conspiracy to spy” as was the charge against Juius and Ethel. So, why draconian punishment for the Rosenbergs? It was,obviously, nothing more than an anti-Semitic American style show trial to scare Jews and other left leaning Americans into silence while falsely attributing to Republicans the undeserved appearance of patriotic devotion and strength. What a hoax. The fear mongers even had the willing help of the AJC and many other scared to death Jewish groups. So, let me ask a few “exploratory” questions here: a)Who actually funds Radoshs’ adjunct professorship at Hudson anyway? I looked it up – the Koch Bros. – heirs of John Birch Society founder – are financial contributors. b)Could the Greenglass kindergarten diagram of the atomic bomb’s ignition switch really have been an actual device? Why doesn’t Radosh ask a physicist (Michio Kaku at CCNY perhaps?) to justify the death penalty on that laughable hoax of a diagram? c)How trustworthy are these newly released government documents purporting to “prove” the Rosenbergs’ guilt? (Old KGB docs?! You’re kidding? Weren’t they history’s masters of forged docs? Anyone ever heard of The Protocols of Zion?)

Thank you, @shmatahari, for your lively articulation of all I’ve been feeling since the Radosh hit-piece appeared. BTW, can you share a link for the source of the Koch Bros. connection?

Alter says:

Yes, I agree that the Rosenbergs should not have been executed. Like the traitor Pollard a lifetime rotting in a prison would have been preferable. A traitor is a traitor. What is it with this elevation of Jewish over American? What about traitor don’t the traitor sympathizers understand?
The electric chair was too swift for the Rosenbergs; Pollard should live a long life–in prison. It is truly distasteful for American Jews to call for the release of an American traitor like Pollard so that he can receive a hero’s welcome in Israel. Where are your values as American citizens? And please spare the world your concern on humanitarian grounds for Pollard. I assume that an Italian-American who spied on the US for Italy which in turn traded atomic bomb secrets to Iran which accelerated Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon would not be receiving pleas of mercy and “enough is enough” from the American Jewish community.
The Rosenbergs were traitors who happened to be Jewish. Sacco and Vanzetti by contrast were convicted and executed most likely (according to Felix Frankfurter among others) because they were Italian. If you want something to argue about, argue about whether Sacco and Vanzetti were justly executed for murder, not about whether three obvious traitors to the United States were unjustly treated because they were Jews. It is true they were Jews, but it is equally true that they were traitors. And they were all white. So what? What is so complicated?

TheBrutalKremlin says:

The fact that there is a so-called ‘Jewish Right’ baffles and sickens me. ‘Never Forget’ – yeah, right.

Prof Ethan says:

Robert Meeropol still doesn’t get it. He says that he was compelled to acknowledge that his father Julius Rosenberg was, actually, a Soviet spy by an article by Ronald Radosh & Steven Usdin. Yet here in his “acknowledgment” he makes it sound as if Julius was only spying for an ally against the Nazis, during World War II.

But what the Radosh and Usdin piece is about is Morton Sobell’s admission of a massive theft of high-technology, and the turning over of that material to the USSR by the Rosenberg group, in July 1948. July 1948–not World War II. And at a time not when the USSR was an ally of the U.S., but a clear enemy.


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Rosenberg Son Admits Father’s Guilt

If just barely

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