Chapter 3 of Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy is very, very hard to read.
The strength of this book is that it really puts you inside Ethel’s head. Which means, of course, you will find the end depressing.
We find in Chapter 3 that these two naive young people, Julius and Ethel, were lonely IN their marriage. They were so poor, Ethel had to “occasionally” borrow small food items from neighbors “that she never returned” and everyone just learned to look the other way. The worst thing for her, though, was not their poverty, but the sight of her husband “failing.”
Julius, on the other hand, was lonely because his Russian handler worried that Julius might be compromised and stopped seeing him for eight months. During which time Ethel got pregnant again, probably as her way of reassuring Julius that she had absolute faith in him as a husband and father! While Julius, probably had so much time on his hands after Feklisov stopped meeting with him that he got bored and had nothing better to do! You see, people, this is what happens when you marry a feckless man!
Julius’s handler is eventually called back to Moscow. He feels he must tell Julius in person, so he takes him to a nice Hungarian restaurant. And then breaks the news.
This is the agent, Feklisov, writing from memory six months later:
- Julius stopped, looking at me wide-eyed. A few long seconds went by. “What do you mean,” he asked. “You’re leaving me? Why?”
Oh God. This is so painful. Self wants to kick Julius for acting like a lovesick puppy. With his newly pregnant wife at home yet.