JUNE 19th,1953 ~~ WAITING FOR THE LIGHTS TO DIM

America watched it live …

For Michael and Robbie ….

Then …

Robert and Michael Rosenberg sons of Julius and Ethel

Now …

fami_meeropols

*

Sketches of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg presented to their sons by the artist Pablo Picasso
*

Looking back at the day ..

*
By Steve Amsel
*
It was a Friday evening, 61 years ago today, that I sat in my bedroom waiting for the lights to dim. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were about to be electrocuted in Sing Sing Prison and I imagined the powerful surge of power causing a brown out in our own home. When that didn’t happen, I thought to myself that perhaps there was a stay of execution …. but I was wrong. Despite the protests, despite the appeals from world leaders, the couple was put to death just one minute before the Sabbath entered, as not to violate the sanctity of the day. It was a reminder of Christ’s execution, also rushed as not to violate the Sabbath.
 *
Many of us were told that they were innocent of the charges of espionage. We were told that they were the ‘first victims of American fascism’. We were told decades later that this might not have been the case.
*
They left behind two young sons, Michael and Robert, one my age and the other two years younger. I could not imagine what these two were going through and could not comprehend how the government rendered them orphans with the flick of a switch.
*
*

June 20, 1953

By Michael Kaufman (FROM)

 

We’re at Aunt Sadye and Uncle Joe’s house in Far Rockaway. A lot of the other uncles and aunts on my father’s side are there. The grownups all have serious looks on their faces. I can’t hear most of what they’re saying because they are talking more quietly than usual… but every once in a while one of them gets angry and the voices get louder. No one notices me in the next room reading the Daily Mirror newspaper.

I am 7 years old and a good reader. But I am disappointed because Aunt Sadye forgot to give me cookies and milk like she always does when we go there. I love the milk at their house because they keep it so much colder in their Frigidaire than we keep it at our house.

“This wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t Jewish,” I hear my father say just as I noticed a picture of the two boys, Michael and Robert. Robert is 7. Like me. He has a crewcut like mine and, hey, he even looks like me. Michael is 9. He has a crewcut too. The words under the picture say the boys are “playing quietly” but their faces look sad.

I look at the picture of the lady. She reminds me a little of my mom. Dark eyes, dark hair, even the look on her face. The man with the mustache doesn’t look like my father… more like my Uncle Joe. I hear a grownup — maybe my father or Uncle Willie — ask, “Did you read the Reuben book?”

“Not yet, but it won’t change my mind… they’re guilty alright.” Was it Uncle Joe who said that? Sidney? But as I read the words on the page, the talking and arguing in the next room becomes an unintelligible buzz.

 

First they put the man, Julius, in the electric chair… and he was dead. Then they put the lady, Ethel, but she did not die. It says a “wisp of smoke” came out of the top of her head but she was still alive. I look at her picture and try to imagine how she might look with smoke coming out of her head. Then another jolt of electricity and more smoke from her head… and she still didn’t die! It took three more jolts and more than five minutes to kill the lady who reminds me of my mother. The newspaper says they were “red spies.”

89rose27I don’t say anything to my parents during the drive home to Oceanside in the 1952 Buick. They don’t say much either. I feel sad for Michael and Robert. I feel bad about what happened to their parents, especially about the way their mother died. I wonder if my parents are red spies and if they will get put in the electric chair someday like the Rosenbergs.

 

Michael Kaufman of Warwick, NY has been a sportswriter, investigative reporter, and medical writer for more than thirty years. His work has appeared in SportCrawdaddyBlack SortsHockeyWoman’s WorldHealth, and the Daily World (writing as “Michael Jay”), and in several anthologies and textbooks. He is a regular contributor to the blog Zest of Orange.

*

From Jewish Currents*

June 19: The Rosenbergs Are Executed

*

Happier Times …

Rosenbergs1

*

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by electric chair in Ossining, New York on this date in 1953, despite worldwide appeals for clemency. Their two-year trial for conspiracy to commit atomic espionage on behalf of the USSR was a media sensation that heightened both American anti-communism and the fear and paranoia of American communists — some third of whom were Jewish, like the Rosenbergs — to fever pitch. The deeds for which the Rosenbergs were convicted took place during World War II, when the U.S. and the USSR were military allies in the anti-Nazi struggle — and while independent investigations and Soviet-era secret cables did indicate, decades later, that Julius Rosenberg participated in espionage, his wife Ethel was, at worst, a witness to her husband’s deeds rather than an active participant. Nevertheless, trial judge Irving Kaufman declared them both to be responsible for “putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb” and therefore responsible for “the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason.” The Rosenbergs’ young sons were orphaned by the execution and were then adopted by songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne. To read Ethel’s final letter to her sons, as well as her letter about refusing to confess to any crimes, as well as contemporaneous commentary by newspapers, international personages, and writers for Jewish Currents, click here.

“I continue to maintain my innocence for the sole reason that I am not guilty of the charge.” —Ethel Rosenberg, letter to their attorney, June 8, 1953

*

A song written by Abel Meeropol from another bygone era …

3 Comments

  1. June 19, 2014 at 19:08

    […] JUNE 19th,1953 ~~ WAITING FOR THE LIGHTS TO DIM […]

  2. bob lidd said,

    June 19, 2014 at 20:15

    Good stuff !! Is Pollard next ?

  3. June 19, 2014 at 21:45

    […] JUNE 19th,1953 ~~ WAITING FOR THE LIGHTS TO DIM […]


%d bloggers like this: