the rosenberg case lives


AS A COLLEGE STUDENT in the mid-1960s, I was assigned an array of books that for the most part were unremarkable and quickly forgotten. Of the few that really captured my interest was one that explored the trial and execution of a young, Jewish couple from New York convicted of conspiring to steal the secrets of the atom bomb. Invitation to an Inquest struck me as a powerful piece of investigative journalism and I told many friends the book was a must read. The authors, Walter and Miriam Schneir, persuasively argued that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were an innocent, progressive couple caught up in an anti-Communist, FBI-inspired witch hunt and that a “pathological liar” and “weirdly twisted creature” named Harry Gold was the government appointed finger man who fabricated a highly unlikely story that put them in the electric chair. Young, impressionable, and unschooled in the nuances of the case, my admiration for the book would remain intact for many years. Of course, I was aware that the guilt or innocence of the Rosenbergs was a controversial and much-debated issue with numerous and knowledgeable advocates on both sides. As time went on, I read other accounts of the case and my confidence in the Schneir thesis began to wane. For example, The Rosenberg File, Ron Radosh and Joyce Milton’s 1983 take on the case, was equally compelling and easily matched the Schneirs’ for solid historical detective work.

more from Allen M. Hornblum at The Fortnightly Review here.