In 1950 the Cold War was escalating dramatically. The House Un-American Activities Committee hearings were in full swing. The Soviet Union had tested its first atomic bomb and anti-communist hysteria was sweeping the nation. On July 17, Julius Rosenberg, partner in a small machine shop on New York's lower east side, was arrested on charges of having recruited his brother-in-law, David Greenglass, into a Soviet spy ring. On August 11, Ethel Rosenberg was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. After a fourteen-day trial in which they denied the espionage charges and refused to discuss their political affiliations, the Rosenbergs were convicted and sentenced to death. They died in the electric chair on June 19, 1953.
The Rosenbergs spent three years in the death house at Sing Sing Prison. During that time, they conducted voluminous correspondence with one another, with their children (aged 7 and 3 at the time of the arrests), and with their attorney. Previous publication of these letters had been partial, fragmentary, of limited circulation, and frequently distorted.
This volume makes available for the first time the complete and unedited text of all the surviving Rosenberg letters. Here in their entirety are over 500 letters in which the Rosenbergs discuss their trial and conviction, the ongoing appeals process and efforts on their behalf, the welfare of their two young sons, their feelings for one another and the situation in which they found themselves, current events, books they read, and other personal matters.
The letters, in the personal collection of the Rosenbergs' sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, have been collected and painstakingly transcribed exactly as written, including misspellings and lapses in grammar. When possible, omitted or crossed-out words are identified. The letters have not been edited in any way. To help orient the reader, extensive footnotes identify names, places, documents, and events referred to in the letters. In a lengthy introduction, Michael Meeropol addresses the most recent developments in the case, including for the first time an extended discussion of the Khrushchev tapes. A chronology, index, and the two appeals for executive clemency are included.