The Execution of the Rosenbergs

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During the Cold War, Americans lived in a society where the tension between the Soviet Union was at its peak in history. It was a time when the hatred against communism and the idea of nationalism were growing exponentially. Meanwhile, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested for the accusations of helping the Soviets create the atomic bomb, which was the United States’ only advantage over the Soviets. Their arrest eventually led to the first ever execution of espionage in United States history. However, the justification of their execution is still being debated to this day. Did the Rosenbergs deserve such a harsh sentence or was it a misjudgment driven by the fear of communism? The political and social aspects of society certainly directed the fear of communism to overshadow the innocence of the Rosenbergs, making them the most controversial spies in American history.

During World War II, many countries including the Soviet Union were skeptical about the existence of the atomic bomb. However, after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the strength of the atomic bomb became well-known. It was clear that as long as the United States had this weapon, no country would challenge them. This weapon was one of the few advantages the United States had against the Soviet Union going into the Cold War. It was as if the atomic bombs were the United States’ shield and armor against the Soviet Union’s attacks. Meanwhile, the power of communism was steadily rising in Eastern Europe and along with that, the American’s fear of communism was growing in parallel. “Communists were demonized; demons had no souls; no love in their hearts” (Garber/Walkowitz 25).

The situation called for the “blueprint” of the atomic bomb to be safely put away from the communists. The U.S. government feared that the Soviet spies might get their hands on the secret information. However, it was only a matter of time that the Soviet Union would “somehow” develop its own atomic bomb… Eventually on August 29th 1949, news was reported that the Soviets have successfully tested an atomic bomb in Kazakhstan. Americans were shocked, furious, and frightened. “When news came that the Soviets tested a bomb, years before it was expected, there were indeed many demagogic calls, in the media and on the stump, to find and severely punish, even execute, the thieves, the traitors” (Cohen 49). The American people did not stop to think once that the Soviet Union could have created the atomic bomb with their own power and technology. Most people just assumed that it was done through a work of spies that sold the secret information for money. Therefore, the government did not waste any time to find the person who was responsible for passing information about the atomic bomb. The growing fear of communism eventually reached its peak and the government was started taking actions to prevent any acts of espionage.

After months of investigation by the FBI, Julius Rosenberg was called for questioning. He has previously been in communist groups and there were confessions from the Soviet spies that he was responsible for sending couriers and information from Los Alamos, where the Manhattan project was run. His wife, Ethel Rosenberg, was not accused at first because there was no proof of her activity in any illegal acts. She was only as a full time worker as a secretary and a mother of two kids. However, she was later called for questioning when her brother, David Greenglass, was also arrested for espionage. As the investigation went on, the media was starting to heat up and draw national attention to the Rosenbergs. The Rosenbergs were to be remembered the biggest scandal makers in U.S. history.

As the fear of the Soviet Union grew after their development of the atomic bomb, the U.S. government was not going to let the investigation go smoothly. After multiple confessions from Soviet spies that Julius Rosenberg was responsible, he was sent to jail. A...
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