In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky at best and based on the perjury of her own brother.
Anne Sebba returns to Milim to talk about her new book which is the first in forty years to focus on one half of that couple. Ethel was a bright girl who might have fulfilled her personal dream of becoming an opera singer, but instead found herself struggling with the social mores of the 1950’s. She longed to be a good wife and perfect mother to her two small boys, while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, anti-Semitism and misogyny. Because of her profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him, despite the government’s pressure to do so. Instead, she courageously faced the death penalty for a crime she hadn’t committed, orphaning her two young sons.
Seventy years after her trial, this is the first time Ethel’s story has been told with the full use of the dramatic and tragic prison letters she exchanged with her husband, her lawyer and her psychotherapist over a three-year period, two of them in solitary confinement. Hers is the resonant story of what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.