Debate over the executions in 1953 of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg after they were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union has been reignited with a confession from Ethel's brother that he lied at the trial and that his perjury probably sent her to the electric chair.
The brother, David Greenglass, said in a television interview broadcast last night on CBS that he was encouraged by the prosecutors to lie to help convict his sister. He has no regrets. "As a spy who turned his family in ... I don't care," he said. "I sleep very well."
Mr Greenglass, who is 79 and lives under a false name near New York, made the disclosures in a book about the trial written by a former New York Times editor, Sam Roberts, called The Brother. He says he lied to protect himself and his wife, and admits that he also spied for the USSR.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are the only Americans given the death penalty for spying in peacetime. Convicted for selling atomic secrets at the height of the Cold War, they died at Sing Sing prison in June 1953. Historians have often suggested that the evidence against Ethel was not convincing.
Mr Greenglass says he falsely asserted that his sister typed out his spy notes to Moscow on her Remington. His wife, Ruth, corroborated this. He says that he was relying on what Ruth remembered and had no idea if it was true. "I don't know who typed it, frankly, and to this day I can't remember that the typing took place. I had no memory of that at all."
Asked why Ethel and Julius refused to explain their role in the affair to save themselves, Mr Greenglass replied: "Stupidity". His perjury helped his wife to avoid prison while he served only nine years of his 15-year sentence.Reuse content