Historian Jeremy Kuzmarov calls on Obama to pardon Ethel Rosenberg

Historians in the News
tags: Obama, Ethel Rosenberg



Along with the Haymarket and Sacco and Vanzetti trials, the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg during the McCarthy-era stands as among the gravest miscarriages of justice in American history.

In the last few months, the Rosenberg family has amassed over 13,000 signatures (http://www.rfc.org/ethel) calling on President Obama to issue an executive proclamation nullifying the guilty verdict for Ethel modeled after what Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts did on the 50th anniversary of Sacco and Vanzetti.

The Rosenberg trial, Ethel’s grand-daughter Jennifer Meeropol said in an interview last week, was a “farce” in which “government prosecutors manufactured evidence, using my grandmother as leverage against her husband, thinking he would cooperate with authorities [and name some fellow co-conspirators]. However, it didn’t work out that way and the bluff was called.”

According to Jennifer, the kind of tactics used by government prosecutors “cannot be allowed to stand in a functioning criminal justice system and democracy,” giving urgency to the petition. “The manipulation of evidence for political purposes,” Ethel’s son Robert Meeropol said, “is incompatible with a free society and reflective more of totalitarian justice systems.”

The Meeropols’ campaign to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg has gained momentum following a 60 Minutes broadcast on October 16th which Robert called “a breakthrough” in allowing the family to present its side of the story on national network television. The shows’ producers, he said, did a great deal of research and “a really good job of summarizing details in the case that have come out over decades.”

The petition was first conceived following the release in July, 2015 of grand jury testimony from David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother, confirming Ethel’s innocence.

The transcripts show that Greenglass, the main prosecutorial witness who worked for the army weapons lab at Los Alamos, changed his story about Ethel having typewritten David’s handwritten notes that accompanied a sketch of a cross-section of the atomic bomb and having persuaded his wife Ruth to recruit him into a spy ring led by Julius in order to protect Ruth from prosecution.

Ethel’s only crime it appears was to protect her husband. She was never given a code name, and according to KGB agent Alexander Feklisov, “never worked for us,” a fact the U.S. government knew.

On 60 Minutes, historian Ronald Radosh suggested Ethel may have been “an accessory to spying by helping [to] identify people, urging people to be recruited, suggesting that her own brother be recruited,” in short “aiding and abetting those who are spying.”

Robert Meeropol believes, however, that Radosh said nothing “to contradict our claims about the trial and [in essence] says he knows better than the KGB. He relies on fourth or fifth hand snippets of information based on a report allegedly given by Julius Rosenberg to some KGB agent translated into Russian and then encrypted, decrypted, and hand-copied that was found in the Soviet archive which was only open briefly. There is no independent verification of the accuracy of the report and none of the information was presented at Ethel’s trial and [it] would not be admissible in court today....if the allegations weren’t so serious, the evidence presented by Radosh would be laughable.” ...




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