During the tense years of the Cold War, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were victims of the American persecution of communists. On June 19, 1953 the husband and wife were put to death for having committed espionage against the United States, even though the evidence supporting the charge was weak.
Julius Rosenberg was born in New York on May 12, 1918 to a Jewish family. In 1939, he graduated with a degree in electronic engineering, and the following year he enrolled in the US Army as a radar operator. By that time he was a member of the Young Communist League, and when World War II broke out he became its leader. He met his wife through the organization. Ethel was born in New York on September 28, 1915. She had enjoyed singing since childhood, and dreamed of becoming an actress. In the meantime, she worked as a secretary. Sympathetic to workers’ struggles, she joined the Youth Communist League, where she met Rosenberg.
They married in 1939 and led a modest life with their two children, Robert and Michael. In 1949, the Soviet Union built its first atomic bomb. The US government suspected its own citizens of having provided the USSR with plans for the bomb. The FBI began a manhunt to find those responsible for leaked information. The investigation led to the arrest of Ethel Rosenberg's brother David Greenglass, among others. He had served as a sergeant at the facility where the atomic bomb was built in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He confessed to the charges and accused his sister and brother-in-law of being involved.
The security of the country had been breached, and America needed someone to blame. The trial began on March 6, 1951. The Rosenbergs’ involvement with Communism worked against them. The prosecution argued that their political affiliation gave them sufficient motivation to conspire against the United States. The US government had found a scapegoat, but failed to prove that the Rosenbergs actually passed information to the Soviets. The jury, for its part, did not take into account that the couple had no access to the secrets necessary to build an atomic bomb. Despite their repeated pleas of innocence, the couple was found guilty.
They were executed by electrocution on June 19, 1953 at Sing Sing penitentiary in New York. Their case has gone down in history as an ideological maneuver aimed at frightening the American population into shunning Communism.