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 ended my last post (Aug 25) by posing a question about why the Grand Jury investigating my parents’ case was so interested in Helene Elitcher’s recollection of the social lives of my parents and their friends: what did this have to do with stealing the secret of the atomic bomb?
This past July I read the pre-publication manuscript of a new book about my parents’ case, Exoneration, the Rosenberg-Sobell Case in the 21st Century by David and Emily Alman, and was moved to give this endorsement:
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.
I don’t consider myself the world’s foremost expert on my parents’ case. For one thing, my brother, who has a better head for details and more patience for pinning them down, can recount more of the finer points than I can. Still, there are very few people in the world who know more about my parents’ case than I do.
I concluded my blog last week, "Surprise Ending," with an overview of how I would have summarized my parents’ case prior to reading Walter and Miriam’s Schneir’s new book Final Verdict, and promised in my next blog to report on how the new book altered my beliefs. I also reviewed the two key events that led to my parents’ conviction and execution:
I left off my last blog by promising to discuss the impact of this new information on the phrase “I come from Julius” and the Jello box top.
Sixty years ago today, Federal Judge Irving R. Kaufman sentenced my parents to death. He justified the death penalty for their “Conspiracy to Commit Espionage” (planning to commit espionage) conviction by saying their “conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding fifty thousand.”
Ever since I first saw John Sayles’ film Lone Star in the late 1990’s I’ve dreamed about getting him to make a film about my parents’ case. One reviewer captured the essence of that film, which is set in a small Texas border town: “Sayles ingeniously sets this mystery against the backdrop of a developing, multicultural community losing its economic base while haggling over a history of racism. The overall effect is of a complicated American tragedy mitigated by the possibility of personal redemption.”
The 40th anniversary of the Attica Prison rebellion earlier this month transported me back to 1971 in a flash. I’m amazed at how the decades have flown by. It seems like we just commemorated the 50th anniversary of my parents’ execution, but already the 60th (June 2013) is coming into view on my temporal horizon. The 60th anniversary of my parents’ arrests, trial, sentencing and even my first visit to them at Sing-Sing prison are already behind us.
Last week I made a quick trip to Southern California. My busy schedule did not permit me to see Hunger: In Bed With Roy Cohn, a new play that recently premiered in L.A. Yet while I was there, I was able to meet with the playwright, the producers and some of the actors after one of the performances.
February 25th will mark the 60th anniversary of the United States Appeals Court’s affirmation of my parents’ conviction for Conspiracy to Commit Espionage. As I have explained before, my parents were convicted of conspiracy- not spying, espionage or treason as the mainstream media usually reports. Prosecutors like conspiracy charges because the law in this country holds everyone involved in the conspiracy responsible for all the acts of any of the conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy.
I spent the 59th anniversary of my parents’ execution speaking at Midrash, a progressive Jewish cultural center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was my intent to write about this trip immediately upon my return, but I’ve decided to let my reactions percolate a little longer and save them for next week’s blog.
On October 13, 1952, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari - that is declined to review the record - in my parents’ case for the first time. Under federal law, anyone convicted of a criminal offense has the right to have their appeal heard by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the trial court sits. Since my parents’ trial was held in the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York (March 1951), their appeal was heard and denied by the Second Circuit Court of Appea
President Harry S. Truman was famous for the sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” But when it came to my parents’ case this proved just as false as so many other truisms about our government - such as that all citizens be afforded due process before the law, be presumed innocent until proven guilty, or that our constitution’s “separation of powers” would prevent the judicial branch of government from conspiring with the executive branch to speed an execution.
The RFC’s program, Carry it Forward, will take place this Sunday evening, June 16th, just days before the exact date of the 60th anniversary of my parents’ execution. In response to this timing, my wife, Elli, who authored the script, wrote this year’s performance in four acts to mirror my parents’ final four days. In 2009, I wrote blogs on five consecutive days that outlined the events of the last five days of my parents’ lives and my reaction to them. The
Guest blog by Robert Meeropol, Rosenberg Fund for Children Founder & son of Ethel & Julius Rosenberg
It has been a year since the release of David Greenglass’s grand jury testimony in which he denied my mother, Ethel Rosenberg’s, involvement in espionage. This was the final element necessary for me to pursue a plan I’d thought about for decades.
(guest blog by RFC Communications Director, Amber Black)
For people who have been gone for almost 65 years, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg turn up in the news and pop culture a lot…and in some surprising ways.
On today’s anniversary of my grandparents’ execution, I’m thinking about two-year-old Angel and his big brother Bryan, who don’t understand why they can’t live with both parents anymore.
(guest blog by RFC Communications Director, Amber Black)
Two topics consistently engage our supporters more than any others: the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and the song “Strange Fruit.” It’s been 65 years since the parents of our founder were executed, and 80 years since Abel Meeropol (the man who along with his wife Anne, adopted the Rosenbergs’ orphaned sons) wrote the anti-lynching anthem first as a poem and then set it to music.
But all these decades later, both the case and the song pop up virtually every day in a huge array of contexts including hard news and popular culture. So we’ve begun to spotlight them in a “Strange Fruit” and Rosenberg “Mention of the Day” on our social media.