FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Rosenbergs and the American Panic

The obits of David Greenglass, the brother in law from hell, omit the undercurrents of antisemitism and legal malfeasance in the federal trial for atomic spying of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the 1950s.

The dramatic cast includes: Julius and Ethel, New York Jewish communists and parents of two small boys.  David Greenglass is Ethel’s brother and a loudmouth Communist.  He and his wife Ruth have children.  Judge Irving Kaufman, prosecutor Irving Saypol, and Roy Cohn U.S. attorney on the case: all Jewish.

J. Edgar Hoover lurks in the background supplying the prosecutors with raw files on the Rosenbergs.

The mood in the Foley Square courtroom and in the country at large is a near-panic that the Russian bear will soon attack first by deceit, all those dupes, moles and sleepers, to soften us up for Stalin’s H-bomb armageddon.    American nerves are raw not least because we’re fighting a physical war with the invading Communists of North Korea and their Red Chinese “volunteers”.

Some very influential Americans, like the half mad emperor of defeated Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, whose troops face defeat on the Korean peninsula, think it a fine idea to risk a World War Three by dropping up to 50 atomic bombs on the Chinese.   (Pres Truman and the Joint Chiefs don’t think so and Mac is fired.)

In this twitchy atmosphere Julius and Ethel, ineffectively represented by a Communist lawyer, face the treasonous charge that they’ve “given the secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviets” and thus doom us all in the coming nuclear  apocalypse.

The main witness against them is Ethel’s brother David Greenglass, a low level machinist who had stolen classified material from the Los Alamos, New Mexico A-bomb lab and given it to Julius a Soviet spy.  Decades later, Greenglass recants part of his testimony that sent his sister and Julius to the electric chair,  and said he’d lied or misremembered to save his own wife Ruth.

All sorts of legal crimes are committed on the way to killing the Rosenbergs.

Shrewdly, the government has chosen Jews to punish Jews in order to dodge accusations of anti-Semitism which lies just beneath the surface of the 1950s fishing expeditions.  The all-Jewish cast of presiding Judge Kaufman, prosecutor Saypol and Roy Cohn in some measure may  feel compelled to show that the Hebraic “enemy within” can be all-out patriotic in dangerous times. We’ll show those goyim!

Regardles of the actual facts – Julius guilty, Ethel hardly – the Foley Square trial squares neatly with the FBI and House UnAmerican committee’s Cold War death hunt for radicals many of whom were Jews.

The trial is an absurdity.  The hysterical summing up by  Kaufman, who got his judgeship as a favor from Roy Cohn, knocks the defense flat.  By giving the “secret” to the Soviets, Kaufman thunders, the Rosenbergs have caused the deaths of “50,000” GIs in Korea, and so on.  The fix is in.

Illegally, Judge Kaufman and Roy Cohn collude to kill off the Rosenbergs in Sing Sing’s electric chair.    Cohn privately and stealthily leans on Kaufman, an old family friend, for a death penalty even the FBI opposes.  (Kaufman secretly negotiates with Cohn outside the courtroom on a public telephone.)

(Parenthetically, theoretical physicist Klaus Fuchs, a far more important spy, is caught by the English, confesses and serves only nine years.)

J. Edgar Hoover, tickled by Cohn’s dark skills, talent spots him to Sen. Joe MCarthy where Cohn guides  McCarthy’s campaign against the US army (for harboring a leftwing dentist) and names secy of state Gen. George Marshall as a “conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy”.

The Rosenberg drama unfolds in a frightened America.  Tally ho! The chase is on for reds, pinkos, suspect immigrants and liberals but also homosexuals and just about anyone else for the hell of it.  Judge Kaufman, who claims that while in synagogue God (not Roy) told him to execute the Rosenbergs, later passes on to heaven wearing the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan. Irving Saypol, who built a career prosecuting Communists, is later indicted for bribery and perjury, charges dismissed.  Roy Cohn, who crusades against gays with such venom, is – of course! – a closeted gay who died of AIDS.

Post Script: In southern California, where I live, a tiny group of us form an impromptu  Rosenberg Committee independent of the Communists because we believe the Party prefers martyrs to a stout legal defense.  Amazingly, at the last moment, one of our little band, a lawyer agitator named Irwin Edelman, argues for a stay of execution because the government had convicted under the wrong federal statute, a point never raised by the Rosenberg lawyers.  Impressed, supreme court Justice Douglas grants a temporary stay but is outvoted by the other judges.

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

 

 

More articles by:

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail