Have you ever wondered why anniversaries that are multiples of 5 or 10 are more significant milestones than those that are multiples of other numbers? I wonder if we had six fingers, instead of five, whether a 24th wedding anniversary might be a bigger deal than the 20th, and if we had seven fingers a 49th might be much more important than a 50th.
Early Tuesday morning, June 16th, Ben Bach drove us to meet our parents’ attorney, Manny Bloch, in Manhattan. From there Manny took us to Sing Sing prison, 30 miles to the north, for what would become our last visit with our parents.
On Wednesday morning, June 17th, Justice Douglas announced he was staying the executions and left for vacation. He did not rule on the merits of the new lawyers’ claim, but rather said that the petition must be considered by the District Court and then the Court of Appeals. This would add months, if not years, to my parents’ lives.
Thursday, June 18th, was my parents’ 14th wedding anniversary, but I have no recollection of knowing that fact as a six-year-old. In fact, I have no memory of this day whatsoever other than my belief that the Supreme Court was reconvened to ask Manny Bloch to provide an eleventh reason why my parents should not be killed. I think I confused everything I heard about “eleventh hour appeals” with giving an “eleventh reason.”
Friday June 19th, 1953 was a warm, sunny, slightly-humid day.
In the morning the Supreme Court denied the stay by a 6 to 3 vote and the executions were set for 11PM that evening. Manny Bloch and several other lawyers spent the day filing a variety of appeals to judges and the President, but it was all to no avail. When they pointed out that it would be improper to carry out executions during the Jewish Sabbath which started at sundown on Friday, the government obliged by moving the executions forward to 8PM so they could be carried out just before sunset.
I could easily fill up a book with the stories people have told me about the impact the events that took place on June 19th, 1953 had on their lives. That was the day my parents were executed. Most of the stories are sad, even tragic. Others can make you very angry. But there were also some good things that happened on that day.
I received the following note from a supporter yesterday:
My name is Jennifer Ethel Meeropol; I am Robert’s older daughter and the Grantmaking Coordinator at the Rosenberg Fund for Children. I’m filling in for my dad’s blog this week and next week while he’s on an anti-death penalty trip to the Far East.
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.
My grandparents were executed 61 years ago today. In their final letter to my father and uncle they wrote they “were comforted in the sure knowledge that others would carry on after us.” (Click here to see Eve Ensler and Cotter Smith read the letter, introduced by Angela Davis.) Since 1990, support from thousands of people allowed first my dad, and more recently me, to justify their faith and convert the destruction that was visited upon our family into the Rosenberg Fund for Children to benefit kids whose families a
On this 64th anniversary of the execution of my grandparents, I’m struck by a related milestone that passed without fanfare a few months ago: the 60th anniversary of my dad and uncle’s adoption by Anne and Abel Meeropol. Taken together, these events capture the spirit of the Rosenberg Fund for Children. My father founded the RFC to honor his birth parents’ resistance and to repay the community which allowed him and his older brother to flourish despite the devastation visited on their family.
Kids wondering if their father will go to prison this summer for participating in a nonviolent demonstration. Young siblings staying with relatives as their dad—already struggling financially after he was fired from his job for his organizing—couch surfs while their mom self-isolates with a fever and other worrisome symptoms.
Today is the 68th anniversary of my grandparents’ execution. But since the start of the year I’ve been more focused on an anniversary we just passed: April 5th marked exactly 70 years since Judge Kaufman sentenced my grandparents to death. Many of you know the nightmare my father and uncle experienced after their parents’ arrest, conviction and execution but this recent milestone has me thinking about the more intangible consequences of the loss of my grandparents and so many others who resisted repression and are still resisting today.