This June 19th was the first anniversary of my grandparents’ executions I observed as the Executive Director of the RFC. While I’ve been here for other anniversaries, this was the first time supporters from across the country contacted me (instead of my father) to share their thoughts and memories of that day.
I was so moved by the many stories people sent me of either being in NYC on June 19, 1953 or of learning about my grandparents, some times decades later, from their own parents or other family members. I wanted to share some of their memories with you:
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.