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Rosenberg Essay, Research Paper

In 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Julius

Rosenberg (1918-53), an electrical engineer who had worked

(1940-45) for the U.S. army signal corps, and his wife Ethel

(1916-53); they were indicted for conspiracy to transmit

classified military information to the Soviet Union. In the trial

that followed (Mar., 1951), the government charged that in

1944 and 1945 the Rosenbergs had persuaded Ethel’s

brother, David Greenglass-an employee at the Los Alamos

atomic bomb project-to provide them and a third person, Harry

Gold, with top-secret data on nuclear weapons. The chief

evidence against the Rosenbergs came from Greenglass and

his wife, Ruth. Both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found

guilty (1951) and received the death sentence; Morton Sobell,

a codefendant, received a 30-year prison term, as did Harry

Gold; and David Greenglass was later sentenced to 15 years

imprisonment. Despite many court appeals and pleas for

executive clemency, the Rosenbergs were executed on June

19, 1953. They became the first U.S. civilians to suffer the

death penalty in an espionage trial. The case aroused much

controversy. Many claimed that the political climate made a fair

trial impossible and that the only seriously incriminating

evidence had come from a confessed spy; others questioned

the value of the information transmitted to the Soviet Union and

argued that the death penalty was too severe. Communists in

the United States and abroad organized a campaign to save

the Rosenbergs and received the support of many liberals and

religious leaders.

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