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Son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg Admits One Parent's Guilt

In an interview with New York Times reporter Sam Roberts, Robert Meeropol, the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, admitted on Wednesday that “his father deserved to have been convicted of the legal charges that led to his parents’ execution. ‘Yes, he was guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage,’"Meeropol told him.

After decades of denial, and insistence that his father was framed up and was innocent, Robert Meeropol for the first time has admitted that his father -- but not his mother -- was legally guilty of the charge for which he had been indicted.

Moreover, Meeropol seemed to have been stunned and surprised by the revelation that Steven Usdin and I had in our Weekly Standard article about the case two weeks ago, in which co-defendant Morton Sobell revealed to us that on a July 4th weekend in 1948, he and three other men, including Julius Rosenberg, photographed top secret documents obtained for them by scientist William Perl, which they passed on directly to a KGB officer.

On this, Meeropol wrote: “I’d be less than honest if I did not admit that the latest news that Morton Sobell, my father and two others provided aeronautical information to the Soviet Union in 1948 gives me pause. My parents wrote in their last letter to me and my brother: ‘Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience.’ My father, at least, doesn’t seem quite so innocent anymore.”

What he neglected to say is that this story, first outlined decades ago by my co-author Joyce Milton and I in The Rosenberg File, was sharply attacked by Michael, Robert’s older brother, in the book they co-authored in its second 1986 edition. Michael Meeropol had argued that this entire incident had been fabricated by the FBI in order to frame Perl and to force him to testify against his parents. Now, it seems that at least Robert Meeropol has acknowledged that the incident did take place, and that his father was engaged in very real espionage.

The significance of the younger Meeropol’s admission was well stated by Tablet magazine’s Marc Tracy, who writes that this is “perhaps the final wall of denial to fall in a case that has obsessed the American Jewish community for six decades,” and, I would add, that has been a linchpin of the American Left’s argument that the United States government was not only evil during the Cold War years, but was ready to kill regular American citizens because they were against the Truman administration’s anti-Soviet policies.

Tracy also points to my own recent article in Tablet magazine, of which he notes that whatever critics of the U.S. role in the case have argued, “most of [their arguments], especially today, Radosh persuasively argues, stems from the far left’s desire ‘to maintain their view that the only guilty party was the United States.’”

Strangely, after having said that his father was guilty, Robert Meeropol makes a statement that is not only a backtracking to his own admission, but is flatly wrong. Meeropol writes:

Ethel was not a spy and Julius was ignorant of the atomic bomb project. They were innocent of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and they were fighting for their lives. It would have been next to impossible for them to explain to their children and supporters the subtle distinction between not being guilty of stealing atomic secrets and blanket innocence. Given that, I can understand the course of action they took from a political standpoint.

First, as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev have revealed in Spies, Ethel Rosenberg was not only aware of the network her husband had put in place, she herself suggested that her brother David Greenglass be recruited by the KGB since he was stationed at Los Alamos. Second, and most importantly, Julius Rosenberg was not only aware of the Manhattan Project, he recruited a second atom spy, Russell McNutt, precisely because he thought that McNutt would be able to gather atomic bomb information from the plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.