I’ve spent a lot of time the last few months planning for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of my grandparents’ executions. From initial brainstorming with the RFC staff and Board about what themes/issues we wanted to highlight to conversations about the format and timing and focus of the events to more recent efforts to draft and then finalize a script and film participants, it’s been an enormous amount of work.
Fortunately, it has also been deeply satisfying and often inspiring. So much of that is due to our amazing beneficiary and donor community. I've been enormously moved by the generous response of the beneficiary families whose stories are part of the film that serves as the centerpiece of our virtual events (on June 14th and June 25th, see www.rfc.org/70th for additional info). When contacted to see if they were comfortable with us sharing their stories, every one of them said yes, often after thanking us for including them in this project, and many asked if they could tell their own story on camera. When we recorded these stories, I was struck by the power of individuals sharing their experiences; it was often emotional and at times difficult but always inspirational. In some ways, it reminded me of the powerful experiences of our Gatherings, where we saw the impact of bringing together people from very different backgrounds and experiences and finding shared commonalities that led to deep, meaningful connections.
It was also an opportunity for me to engage personally, both with beneficiaries I’d never met but felt I knew in some way through reading their application materials and a few folks who I’ve known for years and relished the chance to reconnect with. When beneficiaries chose not to appear on camera due to security concerns or personal preference, activist friends of the RFC stepped in to read their stories. In these moments, I was also reminded of how many amazing individuals and organizations are part of our larger community and how I value the opportunity to connect with them, share stories and learn with and from each other.
Stories were also a source of connection with many of the supporters who shared their memories of June 19, 1953 as they connected with us around the 70th anniversary event. I asked for permission to share a few memories folks send to me, including:
“I was ten years old when Ethel and Julius were executed. I have a vivid memory of the sun setting that evening, it was a red ball of fire in my memory of 60 years.”
“I never mentioned it to [Robert Meeropol, RFC Founder], but I have a memory from that month in 1953, not sure if it was the very day. We lived in Buenos Aires, and there was a demonstration against the execution in front of the U.S. Embassy. My aunt got a heavy dose of tear gas. She lived with us and came home coughing, with her eyes red. It made a huge impression on me.”
“Dear Comrades, we are in Poland c. Wroclaw the Friends and Comrades of Your Rosenberg Fund for Children and we are with You in the time of the 70 anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. We have in our memory the historical persons of Julius and Ethel as the heroes not only of the USA but also of the all progressive world. [Their] memory is eternal. We send to You many good wishes and best greetings for Your noble activity and work for Rosenberg Fund of Children.”
I think these moments while planning the 70th were especially meaningful since that sense of connection has been one of the many casualties of the isolation of the past few years. I found myself soaking up the high from feeling reconnected to so many folks doing hard, important work under really challenging circumstances. It also reinforced my desire to continue to explore safe ways to engage with our beneficiary and donor communities however we can, both now and in the future.
My commitment to furthering RFC connections solidified after two recent experiences with beneficiary stories in connection with our 70th event: the first was someone who received RFC grants as a child and who I knew from previous RFC events and Gatherings. It made me teary to receive the footage she sent us of her telling her story; now an accomplished adult with a family of her own, she simultaneously acknowledged the trauma she and her family experienced during her childhood and the importance of the community that supported them. The second was when we were filming a much newer member of the RFC grantee community. After sharing their painful recent experiences, which clearly was an emotional, difficult thing to do, they took the time to share their deep appreciation for the support the RFC had provided their young family and the impact it had on their commitment to continuing to do the work.
As we look to the virtual events to mark the 70th anniversary, now just about a month away, I am so grateful for the connections this project has made possible. I hope you all can join us on June 14th or June 25th to hopefully experience that sense of connection and community with us.
Hope you can use the musical tribute for the 70th Anniversary
Ethel Rosenberg by Anne Seba
I read Anne's book, and I would like to see it produced as a film or documentary on Netflix.
Classified info during World War II?
My question is: was Julius Rosenberg caught in a "Carch-22"? During World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were allies against the Axis Powers. If he was authorized by the US government to pass on certain classified information to Soviet agents or to those in contact with Soviet agents, would it be illegal for him to disclose this? After World war II, was the Rosenberg case a classic case of "EastAsia was always the enemy"?
Love to Rosenberg family. In 1953, when I was 13, my parents gave me a petition to save the lives of the Rosenbergs and asked that I stand at a Queens, NYC bus stop to ask for signatures. They explained that Julius and Ethel has two sons, Robbie and Michael, who were the same age as me and my brother. Since then I have been an ardent supporter of the struggle to vindicate the Rosenbergs and a participant in every related freedom struggle. My best, solidarity, love and comradely, Jeff Mackler, National Secretary, Socialist Action. $100 donated today.
My family, especially my…
My family, especially my mother was hounded by the FBI until she killed herself, actually ten years after HUAC was done. I remember June 19. also. I was ten years old and up on the farm in Polk County Minnesota. We had been following what was happening on the radio. I bought a poster of Ethel many years later, I don't know if it is still in my storage in San Francisco.
Grandmother/ Julis and Ethel.
I first heard about the Rosenberg's through my grandmother. She asked what history courses in school I was taking at the time. She asked me if I had ever heard about Julius and Ethel and I said no. She then he asked if I wanted to learn more about who they were....I have read "we are your sons", the recent book by Anne Sebba..."Ethel Rosenberg" an American tragedy, and I have also seen Angels in America a number of times.....thank you Rosenberg Fund for Children for carrying on their ideas and struggles....
A message from Australia
I was born in Australia two years after the killing of the Rosenbergs. My parents had been involved in the protests to save them in the lead up to their execution. As a young child, I learned from my mother of the attempts by people across the world to save them. She told of the grief she and my father had felt when the news came through that Julius and Ethel had been killed. Many decades later, I wrote a musical biography of Pete Seeger for theatre, with some emphasis on the hysteria of McCarthyism and the blacklists. In the show I referenced the execution of the Rosenbergs relating their love of the music of The Weavers.
remembering Ethel & Julius
I was young when this horrible execution came about! I remember the anti communist rhetoric of those times. America was under a most paranoid and nasty influence.
They (Rosenbergs) were heoes!
My strong memories
I was born in 1944 and my parents were active political people. When Julius and Ethel were imprisoned, my parents - Mike and Marge Baker in Minneapolis - our home became a place where many people who knew about the Rosenbergs wrote letters and sent a huge variety of important information from all over. I sent letter to Michael, about my age, and Robert!
It was a chaotic and serious time and as a small child I lived in it and feelings and memories remained throughout my life.
When I was in Massachusetts visiting my daughter, my partner and I got in touch with Robert (now) Meeropol and his daughter and when I was in MA I visited them whenever I could. My partner, Malcolm Katz visited, and we have a fund in our wills, to keep the memories of the Rosenbergs, our work for peace, your work for life and peace.
My memories are strong and I wish I could be there!
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