Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were United States citizens who spied for the Soviet Union and were tried, convicted, and executed for conspiracy to commit espionage.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, abbreviated to USSR, was a socialist state on the Eurasian continent that existed from 1922 to 1991.
Espionage is the obtaining of information considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Convicted of Spying Sentenced ... by PublicDomainFootage
They were instrumental in the transmission of information about top-secret military technology and prototypes of mechanisms related to the atomic bomb, which were of value to the Soviet nuclear weapons program.
Atomic Spies Julius & Ethel Rosenberg Sentenced to Death ... by Jeff Quitney
Other co-conspirators were imprisoned, including Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, who supplied documents from Los Alamos to Julius and who served 10 years of his 15 year sentence; Harry Gold, who identified Greenglass and served 15 years in Federal prison as the courier for Greenglass; and a German scientist, Klaus Fuchs, who served nine years and four months.
Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs was a German theoretical physicist and atomic spy who, in 1950, was convicted of supplying information from the American, British, and Canadian Manhattan Project to the Soviet Union during and shortly after the Second World War.
Harry Gold was a laboratory chemist and spy for a number of Soviet spy rings operating in the United States during the Manhattan Project.
For many decades defenders of the Rosenbergs, including their sons, maintained that they were innocent and victims of Cold war paranoia.
The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc and powers in the Eastern Bloc.
After the fall of the USSR, much information concerning the case was declassified, including a trove of decoded Soviet cables, codenamed VENONA, which detailed Julius's role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets and Ethel's role as an accessory.
The Rosenbergs' sons' current position is that Julius was legally guilty of the conspiracy charge, though not of atomic spying, while Ethel was only generally aware of his activities.
They believe that he did not deserve the death penalty and that she was wrongly convicted.
They continue to campaign for Ethel to be legally exonerated.
In 2014, five historians who had published on the Rosenberg case wrote that Soviet documents show that "Ethel Rosenberg hid money and espionage paraphernalia for Julius, served as an intermediary for communications with his Soviet intelligence contacts, provided her personal evaluation of individuals Julius considered recruiting, and was present at meetings with his sources.
They also demonstrate that Julius reported to the KGB that Ethel persuaded Ruth Greenglass to travel to New Mexico to recruit David as a spy."
The KGB, an initialism for Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until its break-up in 1991.
There is a consensus among historians that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were guilty, but their trial was marred by clear judicial and legal improprieties and they should not have been executed.
Distilling this consensus, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote that the Rosenbergs were "guilty - and framed".
Alan Morton Dershowitz is an American lawyer, jurist, and author.