Beyond Oppenheimer: Early Cold War Background Sources

This comprehensive article references dozens of books, articles, and documentaries on the early Cold War, including the arrest, trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. What was the role of Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass in these pivotal events? And what about the role of Theodore (Ted) Hall and the Venona transcripts of decoded espionage messages to the Soviets?

With the notoriety and interest spurred on by the movie Oppenheimer, America’s Untold Stories has tackled the story of David Greenglass, brother of Ethel Rosenberg, who along with her husband Julius, were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, including providing top-secret information about American radar, sonar, jet propulsion engines, and nuclear weapon designs.

According to a 2001 book by his former handler Alexander Feklisov, Rosenberg was originally recruited to spy for the interior ministry of the Soviet Union, NKVD, on Labor Day 1942 by a former spymaster, Semyon Semyonov.

Both Julius and Ethel were members of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA).

Convicted of espionage in 1951, they were executed by the federal government of the United States in 1953 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, becoming the first American civilians to be executed for such charges and the first to be executed during peacetime.

In January 1950, the U.S. discovered that Klaus Fuchs, a German refugee theoretical physicist working for the British mission in the Manhattan Project, had given key documents to the Soviets throughout the war. Fuchs identified his courier as American Harry Gold, who was arrested on May 23, 1950.

On June 15, 1950, David Greenglass was arrested by the FBI for espionage and soon confessed to having passed secret information on to the USSR through Gold. He also claimed that his sister Ethel’s husband Julius Rosenberg had convinced David’s wife Ruth to recruit him while visiting him in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1944. He said Julius had passed secrets and thus linked him to the Soviet contact agent Anatoli Yakovlev. This connection would be necessary as evidence if there was to be a conviction for espionage of the Rosenbergs. On July 17, 1950, Julius Rosenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage based on David Greenglass’s confession. On August 11, 1950, Ethel Rosenberg was arrested after testifying before a grand jury.

But there is much more to the story.


9:00 am on April 13, 2024