Not traitors, but “idealists”: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

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Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

We’ve been looking at the story of Soviet atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – and at the decades of posthumous apologetics and admiration in which their memory was swathed by the American left.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, as we’ve seen, documents were released proving beyond all doubt that – their passionate defenders to the contrary – the Rosenbergs were, indeed, spies for Stalin. Both of them. Dedicated, ruthless, rabid. More devoted to the most bloodthirsty murderer in history than to their two young sons.

The mass media, to a remarkable degree, ignored this evidence.

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Josef Stalin

But not everybody did. In the 2009 book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, which drew heavily on them, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vasseliev established beyond question that, in the words of Ron Radosh, author of The Rosenberg Files and an expert on all things Rosenberg, “the Rosenbergs were indeed atomic spies; that the military data their network stole seriously compromised America’s security, that Ethel Rosenberg was involved with her husband from the start and worked to recruit others to the network; that Julius recruited a previously unknown atomic spy, Russell McNutt, and that their primary loyalty was to the Soviet Union and not to their own country.” In the couple of years that followed, more and more material was made public, and more and more books were published, that documented in greater and greater detail the Rosenbergs’ actions on behalf of the Kremlin.

How did the Rosenbergs’ sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol, react to this tsunami of revelation? In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Robert finally admitted his father’s guilt – kind of. Meanwhile, he reasserted his mother’s innocence. “Strangely,” wrote Radosh, “after having said that his father was guilty, Robert Meeropol makes a statement that is not only a backtracking to his own admission, but is flatly wrong.” Robert Meeropol’s statement read as follows:

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Ron Radosh

Ethel was not a spy and Julius was ignorant of the atomic bomb project. They were innocent of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and they were fighting for their lives. It would have been next to impossible for them to explain to their children and supporters the subtle distinction between not being guilty of stealing atomic secrets and blanket innocence. Given that, I can understand the course of action they took from a political standpoint.

As Radosh put it, this desperate effort to exculpate the Rosenbergs, and to find some way of making their last-minute declaration to their children of their total innocence seem anything other than an outright lie, “makes no sense whatsoever….the secrets they stole were many, they helped serve the Soviet military machine, and they were classified and not meant to be given to any power, especially to the Soviets. Hence Meeropol’s so-called distinction is a distinction without a difference.”

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A Cuban stamp marking the 25th anniversary of the “murder” of the Rosenbergs

Meeropol claimed in his statement that he remained proud of his parents, maintaining that they had “acted with integrity, courage and in furtherance of righteous ideals, and passed their passion for social justice on to me and my brother.” Radosh’s response: “Their would-be integrity and courage consisted of lying about what they were doing, sacrificing their own children for Stalin’s cause, [and] betraying their own country” in the name of such ideals as “forced collectivization of the land, the murder of hundreds of thousands, the establishment of the Gulag, [and] the path to aggressive war in the new post-war period.”

Bingo. And yet the institutionalized far left continued to line up behind the Meeropols, agreeing that Julius was guilty and Ethel innocent and joining in Robert Meeropol’s insistence that, guilt or innocence aside, his parents deserved respect for their “ideals.”

More tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Not traitors, but “idealists”: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

  1. Again, with the apologists. They were guilty or they werent! No third direction of “kindof guilty”. AND ALL EVIDENCE POINTS TO THEM BEING GUILTY! Done.

    When the left keeps beating this dead horse they do nothing to meet me half way

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  2. I dont want to meet them half way. I want them crushed in the next several elections and gone forever. I want them to be remembered as a footnote in history

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  3. *Liberal (Noun) – Communist infiltrator that tried to destroy America in retribution for America’s victory over the Soviet Union. They completely died out in the mid 21st century when they were outed by their own jackassery

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  4. I was never of a mind that they (the Rosenberg’s) were innocent, but I have always thought that had any one country managed to retain the sole proprietary ability to research, manufacture, and maintain nuclear weapons would have been a very BAD thing for global stability in general. So, I always saw what they did (though their political motivations I consider misguided) in the light of that fact. I believe I would have understood (had I been alive at the time) that Stalin of all people to have it would also be a bad thing. Then again history seems to have played that concern out. Looking back, had Stalin ever used his nuclear arsenal against anyone, it would have been absolutely against his own interests. And of all historical figures, I would rank Stalin’s esteem of his own self interest right up there with Hitler.
    I have always regarded the actions of the Rosenberg’s (and I remember developing this view from the first time I ever heard of them, and what they did as a sophomore in high school social studies) as the best possible thing for stability that could have happened to a world where nuclear power was a brand new reality.
    Now, I realized, and revisited those thoughts somewhere between Gorbachev, the fall of the berlin wall, and Putin. There was, as I understand, some very gray area concerning Russia’s nuclear arsenal after the fall of communist USSR, and I seem to remember a lot of postulation and concern over the free sale of nuclear weapons from a failed state to all manner of ne’er do wells, rogue fanatics, and terrorists. This all seems to have gone totally deadpan. I mean, why is everyone who we consider (and I do, I am not a leftist psychopath…at least I hope not) the worst possible hands for nuclear power constantly pursuing these decades long nuclear capability programs, and pouring untold economic resource into them for something they could have ostensibly gotten from Russia, during that vague, gray, “broken” period of the once great superpower? And had they gotten them could they not have extrapolated, or “reverse engineered” the design, and physics at a much lower cost in this scenario?
    So it seems to me that history (such as it is) has in fact confirmed, and affirmed my once childish intuitions on the matter. That the Rosenberg’s, though perhaps misguided (because they had no idea at the time that their adherence to socialism, and every form of it, including communism was adherence to a failed, and unsustainable social, and political theory), thier actions ushered in the best result possible for the world at large. Global nuclear stability. I think though I may actually be quite relieved that they were communist, because if they had been anything other than that, at that time, they may not have done what they did!

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