This Day in History

March 29, 1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Convicted of Espionage

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: Laws & Citizen Rights

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Source: Meeropol Family Archives.

On March 29, 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage.

Howard Zinn explained in A People’s History of the United States:

It was not McCarthy and the Republicans, but the liberal Democratic Truman administration, whose Justice Department initiated a series of prosecutions that intensified the nation’s anti-Communist mood. The most important was the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the summer of 1950.

The Rosenbergs were charged with espionage. The major evidence was supplied by a few people who had already confessed to being spies, and were either in prison or under indictment. David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, was the key witness. He had been a machinist at the Manhattan Project laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1944-1945 when the atomic bomb was being made there and testified that Julius Rosenberg had asked him to get information for the Russians. Continue reading about their case at the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

Learn about the role of junior prosecutor Roy Cohn in the Democracy Now! segment below. Cohn went on serve as a chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare in the 1950s and would later become a leading mob attorney. Cohn represented Donald Trump for years.