June 19, 2011: The 58th Anniversary of my Parents’ Execution

My family was among the most well-known victims of the McCarthy period. Our story has been told in books, films, plays, poems and songs. However, as we approach the 58th Anniversary of my parents’ execution, I’d like to chronicle another family’s ordeal. I share this as an example of the thousands who suffered from the anti-communist hysteria of the late 1940’s and early 1950s’s.

A few months ago I received the following from an RFC supporter who was inquiring about starting a “named fund” at the RFC to honor her recently deceased mother:

“If I may, I would like to tell you a bit of our family history and what brings us to your organization. My mother was a union organizer and an activist during the 30’s and 40’s. Her political activism was intolerable to her husband at that time and he filed for divorce in 1949. The FBI contacted him and convinced him to remove my [half] brother from my mother’s custody because she was a member of the Communist Party. They wanted to use the case [to deter] other women who would reasonably be terrified of losing their children due to their political involvement.

The judge ruled against my mother, and the only thing that saved her and my brother was his father’s disappearance. They could not award custody to a man who had vanished.

But the FBI, who had terrorized my mother with constant surveillance and break-ins during the trial, continued to follow and investigate our family (my mother married my father in the 50’s) through the late 60’s. She spent the rest of her life in fear that they would resume surveillance, especially when my brother and I became politically involved.

My mother followed everything that happened to your family…. She felt a real bond with your family. Her life might have been very different had an organization existed in 1950 to support the children of political activists. What your defense fund represents is so important and so very, very personal for us. Sadly, she was too terrified to reach out to the Rosenberg Fund for Children when she was alive, but I would be very honored to be able to do so now, in her honor and in her memory.”

This letter is my umpteenth reminder that the terror I experienced as a child was visited upon many others. On this 58th anniversary I invite members of the RFC community to share their experiences of the Red Scare. We gain strength from such group recollection and it helps us all to heal.

I look forward to receiving your comments.

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