Government’s case against Rosenbergs gutted by release of key testimony

EASTHAMPTON, Mass. — I applaud the release by the National Security Archives of the Grand Jury testimony of David Greenglass and Max Elitcher. I want to thank attorneys David C. Vladeck and Debra L. Raskin for advocating for the release of this testimony and federal District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein for granting our petition. They have done a service by bringing this testimony to the public. Since my brother and I and others launched the effort to reopen the Rosenberg Case in 1973, we have maintained that the public and family members deserve every bit of information that exists about the case. Today, thanks to this just released information, we have a more complete picture of my parents’ case than ever before.

Some of David Greenglass‘ statements to the Grand Jury echo those of his wife, Ruth Greenglass. Ruth’s testimony, released in 2008, did not mention my mother Ethel typing notes from the Greenglasses’ alleged September 25th, 1945 espionage meeting with Ethel and Julius – a supposed meeting that was the key trial testimony to doom my mother.

As cooperating witnesses, under oath, neither David nor Ruth Greenglass mentioned this key evidence against my mother during their Grand Jury appearances, despite swearing to it at trial the following year. That trial testimony resulted in my mother’s execution.

But David’s Grand Jury testimony is even more stunning than Ruth’s; in addition to the absence of any discussion of Ethel typing any material, he states “I said before and say it again, honestly this is a fact: I never spoke with my sister about this at all.”

Shocking as this is, I believe a second omission in David’s testimony is just as important because it guts the government’s case against both my parents. The heart of the government’s case was that my parents met with the Greenglasses on September 25, 1945 at the Rosenberg apartment in New York City.

At that meeting, the Greenglasses claimed, David gave a sketch of the cross-section of the atomic bomb to my father, and my mother typed David’s accompanying hand-written notes. At trial, the prosecutor claimed this drawing gave away the most important secret known to mankind – the so-called secret of the atomic bomb – and in summarizing the case against Ethel, dramatically stated that as Ethel, “hit the keys, she struck blow upon blow against her country.” In pronouncing the death sentence, Judge Kaufman blamed my parents for the Korean War.

What many missed in 2008 was that Ruth’s Grand Jury testimony not only omitted Ethel’s typing, it made no mention whatsoever of the September 25th, 1945 meeting. From today’s release, we know that while David testified to the Grand Jury about giving sketches to Julius, he doesn’t mention the specific date or the Rosenberg apartment: instead, he says he met Julius in Manhattan in the fall of 1945 and, when pressed about the date, agrees that it might have been September or October. Thus, there is no evidence, other than the Greenglasses’ later, much-evolved trial testimony, that a September 25th, 1945 espionage meeting at the Rosenberg apartment took place.

More than 60 years after my parents’ execution, it is long past time for the government to admit that Ethel Rosenberg was not a spy and that Julius was not an atomic spy. I call for the record to be set straight once and for all:

  1. My father engaged in non-atomic military espionage for the Soviet Union. He did not pass the secret of the atomic bomb to anyone.
  2. My mother did not conspire to commit espionage. The government knew this; colluded with the Greenglasses to convict her; and executed her anyway.

Searchable Catalog of National Archives

#DavidLied #ExonerateEthel #2bigstories #RosenbergCase #DavidGreenglass @wwwrfcorg

Photo: Protest Against Rosenbergs’ Executions, Washington DC, 1953


Robert Meeropol
Robert Meeropol

Robert Meeropol is the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. He is the founder and past executive director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. For over 40 years he has been a progressive activist, author and public speaker.