When Ethel Rosenberg was accused of treason alongside her husband and executed after one of the most controversial trials in American history, her guilt or innocence became secondary to what her treatment said about the position of Jews in America. Rosenberg pursued an early interest in music and theater while working at a packing and shipping company, joining the other workers in labor organizing and leftist politics and performing at socialist rallies. When her brother, David Greenglass, who had ties to the Manhattan Project, was accused as a Communist spy, he named Julius and Ethel as collaborators in exchange for immunity for his wife. While there was little evidence against Ethel, her refusal to show emotion at the trial caused many to believe that she was the driving force in the spy ring. Others believed that the Rosenbergs were simply left-wing, activist Jews being made scapegoats for crimes they hadn’t committed, while the Jewish establishment, fearing anti-Semitic backlash, publically endorsed the guilty verdict. Despite questions about the legitimacy of the chain of evidence and the trial proceedings, the Rosenbergs were executed in 1953, making Ethel the second woman ever executed for treason in the US.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Ethel Rosenberg." (Viewed on January 20, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/rosenberg-ethel>.