FBI File on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

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In 1949 the FBI received information that the secret of the atom bomb had been given to a foreign power. After investigation, Julius Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel, were arrested by the FBI in 1950. During the Rosenbergs’ trial in 1951, the government charged that the couple had convinced Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, a machinist at the Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico, to supply them and a third person -- Harry Gold -- with information on nuclear weapons. Greenglass and his wife provided the main evidence against the Rosenbergs. The Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. Harry Gold received a 30-year prison sentence, as did Morton Sobell, a co-defendant in the trial.

On June 19, 1953, after nine appeals to the Supreme Court and unsuccessful requests to President Truman and President Eisenhower for executive clemency, the Rosenbergs were executed. They were the first U.S. citizens to receive the death penalty in an espionage trial.

The Rosenbergs’ trial took place during a time of great anxiety generated by the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the Red Scare. The case was controversial because many people believed it had been impossible for them to receive a fair trial in the midst of the strong anti-communist political atmosphere.

This collection consists of subsections of the greater case file on Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The file deals specifically with the investigations of Julius and Ethel, with the bulk devoted to Julius. It establishes the Rosenbergs’ relationships with the other key characters in the case: David and Ruth Greenglass, Morton Sobell, and Harry Gold. Also included is a case summary.

This is an extremely useful source for scholars of the Cold War, the Red Scare, the McCarthy Era, espionage, political science, and legal studies.

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