p. 205, Back to Crying

Really, self has never experienced anything like it, not in her entire life: it’s like her eyes have been swollen to the size of golf balls for TWO DAYS, all on account of reading Anne Seba’s Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy (The title was slightly different in the UK edition, self noticed. It was Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy).

And also, the house is really, really cold. Insulation is circa 1939, which means there is none. Self is wearing three sweaters.

Also: She is really glad it rained last night. And not just a little sprinkle, either. Ground was wet when she went to the backyard this morning.

p. 205:

  • Ethel was admant that her fate could not be separated from Julius’s: either both of them would be spared, or both would go to the electric chair. “A cold fury possesses me and I could retch with horror and revulsion for those unctuous saviors, these odious swine who are actually proposing to erect a terrifying sepulcher in which I shall live without living and die without dying” . . . Ethel had learned that she might be saved “out of a humanitarian consideration for me as a woman and as a mother while my husband is to be electrocuted,” an idea that appalled her.

Self is simply in awe. This should be an opera. Why hasn’t anyone turned this into an opera?

Meanwhile, on the rejection of their last appeal for clemency, to President Eisenhower, Judge Kaufman — yes, that same Judge Kaufman who presided over their initial trial, where he pretty much functioned as a member of the prosecution team — sets the date of execution for the following week. He’s waited two years for this moment, the moment when the Rosenbergs run out of options and face the music! Oooh. Can’t you just see his face? As far as this judge is concerned, the Rosenbergs should have received their just deserts in 1951, why have they been allowed to live an additional two years?

Ethel is calm, but Julius becomes belligerent. Why, he wants to know, do the other convicted spies get 15-year sentences and he and Ethel get the electric chair? Why indeed. That was probably a question for his lawyer, who was so completely out of his depth, he didn’t even think about the court of public opinion until it was too late.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in the prison van, 1951. The last time they were allowed to touch. Even on the day of their execution, two years later, they were separated by a wire mesh barrier.

Letter to Julius

July, 1951:

Believe me, my loved one, children are what their parents truly expect them to be. If we can face the thought of our intended execution without terror, so then will they. Certainly neither of us will seek to dwell on these matters unduly but let’s not be afraid and they won’t either.

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, p. 185

The visit with her children on Aug. 1 lasted one hour. It was the first time she’d seen them in a year.

Self’s tearducts are getting properly exercised, for sure!

David Greenglass, you are a lousy, stinking rat!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Salon Magazine Interview with Harvard Prof Steven Levitsky

Dean Obeidallah conducted this interview for Salon (published 13 October 2021)

We did have elections as an escape hatch, and we used them. And it’s a damn good thing we did. We would be much, much worse off had Trump managed to retain the presidency and stay in power for four years. The fact that we sent him to Mar-a-Lago is very important, and shouldn’t be understated. Now that said, I don’t predict things accurately very well. One thing I did predict, I knew would happen.

I knew that Donald Trump would not accept the results of the election. What I did not anticipate is that the vast bulk of the Republican Party would go along with it. And of course, I didn’t anticipate anything remotely like Jan. 6. So yes, things have gotten much worse, because not only has the Big Lie taken hold among the vast bulk of the Republican Party, to the point where you can’t be a member of the Republican Party in good standing if you don’t adhere to the Big Lie.

And they’re acting upon that, right? They are now taking steps in various important states — Texas, Arizona, Georgia — to make it easier to overturn an election. So I think there’s a good chance that the Republican Party, not just Donald Trump but the Republican Party, tries to overturn the results of the 2024 election. And that is, again, a worse place than we were a few years ago. But we would be even worse off had Trump remained in power.

You can read the full interview here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Emmanuel Bloch Closing Argument in the Trial of Ethel Rosenberg

March 28, 1951, shortly after 10 a.m.:

  • “Dave Greenglass loved his wife. He loved her more than he loved himself . . . and ladies and gentlemen this explains why Dave Greenglass was willing to bury his sister and his brother-in-law to save his wife.” — Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, p. 165

Granted this may not have been the most persuasive closing argument in the history of closing arguments, but it was heartfelt.

Apparently not content with having sent his sister to the electric chair, in 2001 Dave Greenglass gave an interview to 60 Minutes (!!!!) where he tried to justify his actions (again!) and showed not the slightest remorse.

Here’s the link to a foundation started by Ethel Rosenberg’s younger son, Robert Meeropol. His brother Michael is on the board.

On to the jury deliberations. “The one juror holding out against a death sentence for Ethel was a forty-eight-year-old accountant called James A. Gibbons, with two children of his own.” (p. 169) May his name go down in history.

If self had been on the jury, notwithstanding the terrible incompetence of the Blochs, self would have thought: Hmm, isn’t it strange that the ONLY testimony to this woman’s guilt comes from her brother? He cannot be entirely trustworthy. It’s all his word against hers.

On April 5, the judge handed down his sentence. Julius and Ethel sat there, their faces “chalk-white . . . frozen into grimaces of incredulity.”

The judge went on to sentence the two to death, and probably went home afterwards feeling very satisfied with the day’s work, while Ethel’s brother David — well, who cares what David was feeling. He’s not smart, so he probably felt self-congratulatory, too.

The judge did not just stop at sentencing Julius and Ethel to death, oh no. He drove his point home by singling out and “criticizing Ethel as a mother.” (What about Julius as a father? Did the judge care to say any words about that? Newp)

Before the two were taken back to their respective prisons, Ethel sang a Puccini aria from Madame Butterfly to Julius. AARGH! Which prompted a prison guard to say (p. 174): “Julie, you’re a low-down son of a bitch . . . but you’re the luckiest man in the world because no man ever had a woman who loved him that much.”

That night, the prison matron offered Ethel a sedative, but she refused it. Singing arias to her feckless husband after she’d just been sentenced to death? Then refusing the sedative? God, that woman was strong.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Million-Dollar Question

Manny Bloch’s cross-examination of David Greenglass, Ethel’s younger brother (bear in mind Bloch’s experience in court was settling small bakery contract disputes, and he was up against a very wily and very slippery Roy Cohn, David’s lawyer)

Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy, pp. 141 – 142

“You realize the possible death penalty in the event that Ethel is convicted by this jury, do you not?”

Repeating the question, Bloch asked: “And you bear affection for her?”

“I do.”

“This moment?”

“At this moment.”

“And yesterday?”

“And yesterday.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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