Purchasing Freedom Dearly: Ethel Rosenberg Gets Her Day of Justice
Talk about your long arc: Over 60 years late, New York City officials, supporters and her surviving family gathered this week to "begin to right the wrong of what happened to Ethel Rosenberg,” declaring her "an innocent woman (who) was unjustly executed" after a flawed trial that became the most shameful symbol of political repression in the cold war era. Marking what would have been Ethel's 100th birthday, her children, grandchildren and a great-granddaughter joined New York City Council members to "honor (her) life and memory” and proclaim the “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan.” Said Borough President Gale Brewer, "Ethel Rosenberg’s life was tragically stolen from her by the US government at an early age....during a shameful period of anti-communism hysteria in our country." She called Ethel's trial, conviction and 1953 execution for espionage - after gross legal misconduct and what decades later turned out to be false testimony by her brother - "a stain on our country."
The Rosenbergs' two sons, Robert and Michael Meeropol - they were adopted by teacher and Strange Fruit author Abel Meeropol and his wife - have fought for decades for their parents' exoneration. Robert founded the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which supports children of targeted activists in the U.S.; one of his daughters now runs the Fund, and another is a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights. At this week's ceremony, both brothers praised the city's "important steps towards acknowledging a terrible injustice" committed against their mother as "a dream come true," stressing that her unjust prosecution and execution "damaged our country as well." In a New York Times op-ed piece last month, they wrote, "It is never too late to correct an egregious injustice. We call on the government to formally exonerate Ethel Rosenberg.” Ethel herself, who always maintained her innocence, seemed hauntingly prescient at her death; taking the long view in her final letter to her children, she said she was comforted "in the sure knowledge that others would carry on after us."
"My most precious children... Your lives must teach you, too, that good cannot flourish in the midst of evil; that freedom and all the things that go to make up a truly satisfying and worthwhile life, must sometime be purchased very dearly. Be comforted then that we were serene and understood with the deepest kind of understanding that civilization had not as yet progressed to the point where life did not have to be lost for the sake of life...Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience. We press you close and kiss you with all our strength."