Lessons of the Rosenberg Panel

Last Saturday I joined a panel at the Left Forum at Pace University in NYC entitled, Exonerate the Rosenbergs? Robert & Michael Meeropol React to Morton Sobell and Other New Developments. (See my previous posts about the rationale for exonerating my parents: Part 1 and Part 2.) I undertook this task, not as the Executive Director of the RFC, but in my new capacity as a board member of the recently reconstituted National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case (NCRRC). I believe it was the first panel made up entirely of progressive experts on my parents’ case who were willing to accept the accuracy of Morton Sobell’s claim that he and my father engaged in illegal activity to help the Soviet Union during World War II.

I admit that I had some concerns that the left-wing audience of more than 70 who packed the small room, would either have trouble accepting our stance, or find it disheartening. After a lengthy and lively question and answer period, almost everyone in the room had no trouble understanding that the crime committed by the government in executing my parents for stealing what was called “the secret of the atomic bomb,” was much worse than anything Julius Rosenberg and Morton Sobell did. Moreover, the people I spoke with agreed that it was past time to exonerate my parents of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and mount a public campaign to achieve that end.

After the presentations and the question period, we turned the floor over to Morton Sobell to make a statement. He reiterated that he acted with my father to aid the USSR during World War II, but stated emphatically that Germany was the enemy he sought to harm, not the United States.

This reminded me of something Jeff Kisseloff, one of my new NCRRC Board colleagues, wrote in The Nation in October 2008, in reaction to Mort’s initial statement that September:

“Imagine if [Morton] had said fifty years ago: ‘We came of age in the 1930s, when as Americans we suffered under the bankruptcy of capitalism and as Jews we experienced the evils of anti-Semitism. While GM was making engines for the Nazis, you bet we aided the Russians. Someone had to.’ Maybe a few million GIs with vivid memories of places like the Ardennes and Arnhem wouldn't have disagreed.”

Morton Sobell’s admission does nothing to diminish our government’s wrongdoing in executing my parents, and we on the left should move beyond our defensive denials, and instead, assert the positive reasons why communists helped the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

A .pdf of the panel's transcript may be downloaded below.

See videos of the Left Forum panel on the RFC's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/wwwrfcorg. Click on the "UPLOADS" button and look fora series of videos with titles starting, "Left Forum...".  (Thank you to videographer Joe Friendly for making this footage available.)

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PDF icon LeftForumTranscription.pdf180.6 KB

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