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Big Rosenberg Case News on the Horizon

Last month Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the release of David Greenglass’ 1950 Grand Jury testimony against my parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The statements of most of the Grand Jury witnesses, including Ruth Greenglass, were released in 2008, but at that time David Greenglass was still alive and objected to the release of his testimony. Greenglass family members still object, and the window to appeal Hellerstein’s ruling has not yet closed, so a further delay remains possible. It is more likely, however, that there will be no appeal, and this final disclosure will occur before the end of the summer.

This is big news. When Ruth Greenglass’ testimony was released, it caused a minor sensation in the mainstream media. Although she was a cooperating witness and under oath, Ruth made no mention of my mother typing David Greenglass’ handwritten notes. At trial the next year, both the Greenglasses swore that Ethel typed notes from their key espionage meeting; that testimony resulted in my mother’s execution.

If David’s statements echo Ruth’s, they will provide further proof that David and Ruth invented their decisive testimony against my mother at some time between their Grand Jury appearance and the trial. That would not surprise me; after reviewing the FBI files and other records in the 1980’s, my brother and I came to that conclusion, although the mainstream media ignored us. However, I did not expect that either Ruth’s or David’s Grand Jury testimony would differ so starkly from what they swore to at trial.

I predict that when David’s transcript is released, the media will pounce on this increasingly compelling evidence of my mother’s innocence. That’s a bombshell, but they may miss the bigger story.

The core of the government’s case was that my parents met with the Greenglasses on September 25th, 1945 at the Rosenberg apartment in New York City. At that meeting, the Greenglasses claimed, David gave a sketch of the cross-section of the atomic bomb to my father, and Ethel typed David’s accompanying hand-written notes. The prosecutor claimed this drawing gave away the most important secret known to mankind, and in summarizing the case against Ethel, dramatically stated that as Ethel hit the keys, she struck blow upon blow against her country.

What the media missed is that Ruth’s Grand Jury testimony made no mention whatsoever of the September 25th meeting. I bet David’s won’t mention it either. I’m confident of this because a careful analysis of Soviet and US Government files indicate that Ruth Greenglass transmitted David’s sketch to a KGB agent, without my parents’ involvement, on December 21st, 1945 and that the sketch was logged in to the KGB files on December 27th. There is no evidence, other than the Greenglass’s trial testimony, that a September meeting ever took place. Furthermore, David’s sketch was flawed and worthless, and if it had been given to my father in September it should have arrived in Moscow no later than early October.

In sum, the impending release of David Greenglass’s Grand Jury testimony is likely to provide powerful proof that David and Ruth Greenglass invented the critical September meeting to shift blame from themselves to my parents. It remains to be seen whether our government knew that the Greenglasses were lying.  Read More 
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I Know My Way Around the Catskills

Veteran CBS reporter Bob Simon died in a car accident last week. Wikipedia states that he “covered crises, war, and unrest in 67 countries. Simon reported the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the student protests in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989. During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, he and four of his TV crew were captured and imprisoned by Iraq for 40 days, about which experience he wrote a book, Forty Days.”

I have a different recollection of Bob Simon.

He was the host of CBS’s “Sixty Minutes Two” when David Greenglass broke his 50-year silence. The interview was broadcast on December 5th, 2001, and although my memory is not precise enough to repeat Bob’s questions and David’s answers verbatim, that interview is seared in my mind.

My younger daughter, Rachel, now an attorney suing the government on behalf of political prisoners while working for the Center for Constitutional Rights, was then in law school. The day of the broadcast, Rachel said, “It’s my birthday. Do I have to watch it?” Of course not, I responded, but I felt compelled to watch and was immediately distressed. Even with a fake beard, I could see a family resemblance. I was mortified to think that I looked even a bit like my uncle.

Bob Simon asked Greenglass how he expected to be remembered. David’s reply was unhesitating: As a spy who turned his sister in, he said. Simon followed up with how that made David feel. The instantaneous response was, “I don’t lose any sleep over it.” And I think David was telling the truth, even though it was an astounding statement for someone who’d just admitted on national television that his key trial testimony against his sister, my mother, was a lie.

And so it went, more probing questions, and a series of amoral, sociopathic replies. I was struck that as the interview progressed, Simon leaned further and further back in his seat. His body language seemed to indicate that he wanted to put as much space as possible between himself and Greenglass. Watching the two men, I felt that Simon was almost as repulsed as I was.

The program included a moment of comic relief. Greenglass said that in the month before his arrest he realized the FBI was following him so he devised an escape plan for himself and his family. He told Simon that he slipped his tail and spent the day in the Catskills to see if it would work. Simon was incredulous. You mean you thought you and your family could hide from the FBI in the Catskills? Greenglass replied with a hint of petulance, “You’d be surprised. I know my way around the Catskills.”

Perhaps you will think that I’m letting Greenglass off the hook too easily, but that statement epitomized the mindless arrogance that enabled Greenglass to rationalize all his actions without batting an eye. So I couldn’t help laughing. Perhaps, with Bob Simon’s help, David Greenglass had just written a fitting epitaph.  Read More 
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David Greenglass is Dead

My brother called me in early July to tell me David Greenglass had died. I think Michael heard this from his daughter, Ivy, but I’m not sure how she found out. We’d known that Greenglass was ill, suffering from dementia in a nursing home, so we weren’t surprised.

We expected the press to ask us to comment, so we composed a statement, but did not release it. No obituary had appeared, and since his immediate family did not publicize his passing, we decided to follow their lead. We didn’t know his family, but we had nothing against them, and did not want to cause them any trouble.

As the weeks passed the lack of mention of Greenglass’s passing in the New York Times perplexed us. I wasn’t talking about it, but I heard the news through others, so by Labor Day it was hardly a secret.

In late September, I learned that Random House was about to publish a second edition of Sam Roberts’ book, The Brother, about David Greenglass. Sam is the New York Times reporter who covered news related to my parents’ case for decades. He had the financial misfortune of publishing the first edition in September 2001, when almost no one, particularly in the New York City area, was buying books.

Ah ha, I thought. That explains it. The Times will publish the Greenglass obit just after the new edition comes out, generating lots of free publicity for Sam Roberts. That is what happened, but Sam Roberts wrote in a blog in the Huffington Post that he didn’t know about Greenglass’ death in July. He explained that he occasionally monitored Greenglass’s status by calling the nursing home that housed him. He said when he called in September and learned Greenglass was no longer in residence, he realized David Greenglass had died.

Perhaps that’s true. You can decide which explanation is more likely.

My brother and I released our statement and a number of news outlets quoted from it. I received supportive notes from people who expressed the hope that I gotten some closure from Greenglass’s death. I think that concept is overused, especially when it comes to the death penalty. Prosecutors tell victims’ family members that an execution will give them closure.

But closure is a static concept, the antithesis of the dynamic process that is life. When applied to a death, closure for those still alive is an illusion. David Greenglass’s death gave me no sense of closure. I’ve lived with my parents’ case all my conscious life. I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve come to terms with it and I’ve done my best to make something good come out of it. But for me their case is never closed. Read More 
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