Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s final day: June 19th, 1953

The executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, which took place seven decades ago, are today still seen by many as a grave injustice in U.S. history. In 1953, the Rosenbergs were sent to the electric chair at the height of the McCarthy era in an atmosphere of hysterical anti-communism with undertones of anti-Semitism.

The Rosenbergs were charged with “conspiracy to commit espionage” under the Espionage Act of 1917. Prosecutors painted the Rosenbergs as traitors, responsible for providing the Soviet Union with “the secret of the atomic bomb.”

It turns out the Rosenbergs probably never had access to atomic secrets, and although Julius had passed industrial secrets to the Russians during World War II (when the Soviets were U.S. allies), Ethel didn’t engage in espionage and was charged with a capital crime in order to pressure Julius into confessing.

Despite propagandistic myths of American technical prowess, atomic scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer disputed the existence of a so-called “secret of the bomb” and held that the Soviets could have developed the bomb independently. The lives of the Rosenbergs were offered up as a sacrifice not in the interest of national security, but for political purposes.

Despite massive worldwide protests, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed in Sing Sing Prison. When they were killed by the state, they left behind two young sons. In the article below, the Rosenbergs’ granddaughter, Jenn Meeropol, shares a message and some videos related to her grandparents’ final days.

On Friday, June 19, 1953, my grandparents were executed at the height of the McCarthy era hysteria that was sweeping through this country.

The iconic 1952 lithograph of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, “por Michael & Bobby,” by Pablo Picasso.

In the video series I share here, my father and uncle (who were six and 10 when my grandparents were killed) share personal memories of the last four days of Julius and Ethel’s lives, including their final visit as a family. Angela Davis explains the dramatic legal maneuverings that occurred. And Eve Ensler and Cotter Smith present the letters that Julius and Ethel wrote from June 16th to 19th.

I hope you will join me in remembering their courage and honoring their resistance.

– Jenn Meeropol


These videos depict the last four days of the lives of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, as told through the letters they wrote to their two young sons on those dates. Featuring Angela Davis, Cotter Smith (as Julius), Eve Ensler (as Ethel), and Rosenberg sons Michael and Robert Meeropol.








Jennifer Meeropol
Jennifer Meeropol

Jennifer Meeropol is the Executive Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. The RFC is a public foundation created to honor Jenn’s grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, by assisting the families of today’s activists who are experiencing repression.