Last-ditch ap­peal

Sons of Ethel Rosen­berg plead with Obama to ex­on­er­ate mother

The Denver Post - - NEWS | NATION & WORLD - By Eric Tucker and Josh Lederman

wash­ing­ton » The sons of con­victed spy Ethel Rosen­berg re­turned to the White House on Thurs­day, more than 50 years af­ter plead­ing un­suc­cess­fully to spare her life, in a last-ditch ap­peal to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to ex­on­er­ate her amid new ev­i­dence.

Rosen­berg was ex­e­cuted in 1953 along with her hus­band, Julius, af­ter be­ing con­victed of con­spir­ing to pass se­crets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. But court records made public last year through a judge’s or­der cast doubt on the con­ven­tional nar­ra­tive of a Cold War es­pi­onage case that cap­ti­vated the coun­try.

“This is our mother we’re talk­ing about,” Robert Meeropol, one of Rosen­berg’s two sons, said as he stood out­side the White House gates. “Since we can’t bring her back to life, there could be noth­ing more sat­is­fy­ing to us than to have the gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edge that this shouldn’t have hap­pened, that this was wrong.”

The new doc­u­ments showed that Ethel Rosen­berg’s brother, whose damn­ing trial tes­ti­mony against her and her hus­band helped se­cure the cou­ple’s con­vic­tion, had never im­pli­cated his sis­ter in an ear­lier ap­pear­ance be­fore a grand jury. The brother, David Green­glass, of­fered the grand jury no ev­i­dence of his sis­ter’s di­rect in­volve­ment and said he never dis­cussed such mat­ters with his sis­ter.

As young boys, Robert and Michael Meeropol vis­ited the White House in 1953 in a failed bid to get Pres­i­dent Dwight Eisen­hower to pre­vent their par­ents’ ex­e­cu­tions. Half a cen­tury later, the broth­ers ap­proached a guard booth out­side the White House and asked to de­liver their let­ter to Obama.

They were turned away by U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice. “OK, well, we tried,” Michael Meeropol said as he stood in the sun, peer­ing through the gate at the West Wing. “Thank you very much, any­way.”

No mat­ter, the broth­ers said. They’ve al­ready sent a hard copy to Obama se­nior ad­viser Va­lerie Jarrett, and are hop­ing Obama will act be­fore leav­ing of­fice.

“I’m sure we’ll take a look,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. He said he was “not aware of any work that has been done thus far” on the broth­ers’ re­quest.

Both broth­ers ar­gued that a na­tional reck­on­ing over an er­ro­neous ex­e­cu­tion is cru­cial, per­haps now more than ever.

“We have gone through cy­cles in our his­tory of hys­te­ria, tar­get­ing peo­ple, over pun­ish­ing, fram­ing peo­ple. We’re in dan­ger of that hap­pen­ing again,” Michael Meeropol said. “Rec­og­niz­ing that in the past we’ve done things we shouldn’t have done might be a cau­tion­ary tale.”

The Meeropols are not seek­ing a pres­i­den­tial par­don, say­ing that would sug­gest their mother was guilty. They in­stead are seek­ing a public ex­on­er­a­tion.

Michael, 10, right, and brother Robert, 6, read in the news­pa­per that their par­ents have one day more to live. The Rosen­bergs were elec­tro­cuted on June 19, 1953.

Ethel Rosen­berg and hus­band Julius are sep­a­rated by a wire screen as they ride to jail in New York on March 29, 1951, af­ter their con­vic­tion as traitors in the na­tion’s first atomic-age spy trial. As­so­ci­ated Press file

Michael, left, and Robert Meeropol, the sons of Ethel Rosen­berg, at­tempt to de­liver a let­ter Thurs­day to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to ob­tain an ex­on­er­a­tion for their mother. Alex Bran­don, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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