It seems as though nothing positive could result from a court
case tried in an environment where jingoism, the fear of nuclear
war, anti-Semitism and McCarthyism are prominent, but activist and
author Robert Meeropol is trying to do just that.
The son of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Meeropol
started the Rosenberg Fund for Children in 1990 to honor his
parents’ memory and carry on their tradition of leftist activism.
He has been writing, lecturing and organizing against the death
penalty for 30 years; prior to his activism, he practiced law and
attended the University, receiving undergraduate and graduate
degrees in anthropology. A few decades after their deaths, Meeropol
and his older brother Michael sued for the release of 300,000
secret FBI and CIA documents concerning their parents. After
learning what happened to them, Meeropol wanted to assist political
activists facing adversity.
The purpose of the RFC is detailed in its mission statement:
“The Rosenberg Fund for Children was established to provide for the
educational and emotional needs of children whose parents have
suffered because of their progressive activities and who,
therefore, are no longer able to provide fully for their children.
The RFC also provides grants for the educational and emotional
needs of targeted activist youth. Professionals and institutions
will be awarded grants to provide services at no or reduced
Released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his parents’
execution, Meeropol’s memoir “An Execution in the Family: One Son’s
Journey” details his transition from orphaned child to political
activist. The Rosenberg brothers suffered a deprivation similar to
that which the RFC wishes to prevent: In 1953, his parents were
executed after being convicted of conspiracy. The Rosenbergs
allegedly conspired to obtain information about the atomic bomb for
the USSR. When the couple refused to falsely implicate others in
exchange for clemency, they were executed.
While Julius Rosenberg was indeed a member of the Communist
Party, the trial was tainted by alleged prosecutorial misconduct
and took place when public and political opinion was being shaped
by the likes of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Accomplices and witnesses in
the trial were given preferential treatment, while other defendants
and prosecutors allegedly fabricated testimony and attempts to
appeal the death penalty were thwarted by presiding Judge Irving
Kaufman’s evocation of an outdated law.