Decades after Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for spying for the Soviet Union, their children are still fighting to honor their parents’ name.
In 1953, the Rosenbergs were convicted of selling U.S. plans for a nuclear bomb to the Soviets, a verdict that was, according to their long-orphaned sons Michael and Robert, erroneous, exaggerated, and manufactured to fuel Cold War frenzy. But in 2008, the Rosenbergs’ sons took a blow, when an acquaintance of Julius Rosenberg’s implicated the man in a spy ring.
The Rosenberg sons, who adopted their foster parents’ surname Meeropol, have spent most of their lives struggling to vindicate their parents, who they believed innocent. But the 2008 confession by Morton Sobell, an acquaintance of Julius Rosenberg’s who spent 17 years in jail for spying, admitted for the first time his involvement in a spy ring that included Julius.
The news that Michael and Robert’s father was indeed a spy not easy for the sons to accept. “We believed they were innocent,” said Michael, though they were steadfast in their belief that “the truth is more important than our political position.”
Nevertheless, the execution of their parents continues to be an unnecessary tragedy. In 2015, the sons unsuccessfully petitioned Barack Obama to posthumously exonerate their mother, who they believed was convicted and executed on flimsy evidence.
As Alan Dershowitz said: “Just because Julius Rosenberg was guilty…does not mean he was not also framed.”