Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, separated by heavy wire screen as they leave U.S. Court House after being found guilty by jury.
Labeling Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as spies is still a matter of debate. Some alleged they are the victims of antisemitism, some that they are framed by a hostile, fear-mongering government. The two were the first–and the only–civilians in United States history to be executed for conspiracy to commit espionage in 1953. Charged with allegedly sharing information about the atomic bomb with the Soviet Union, their death sentences prompted massive public outcry. “Do not let this crime against humanity take place,” wrote Pablo Picasso. Their ‘fellow leftists’ were led by Jean Paul Sartre who wrote “you are afraid of the shadow of your own bomb.” Even Pope Pius XII requested a pardon for the couple from President Eisenhower, to no avail. Guilty or not, the Rosenbergs died in the electric chair at Sing Sing prison on June 19, 1953.
In 2008, 91-year old Morton Sobell, an erstwhile co-defendant in the famous espionage trial, finally admitted that he and his friend, Julius, had both been Soviet agents. It was a stunning admission as the Rosenberg’s offspring Robert, then-6, left, and Michael, then-10, still believe their parents were not guilty.
The photo of Rosenbergs was taken by Roger Higgins for New York World Telegram. The younger Rosenbergs photo is of AP.