- Historical event:
- 19 June 1953
- The Rosenbergs were the only civilians executed for espionage in the United States during the Cold War.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were a married couple convicted of atomic espionage during the Cold War.
It was a time when communists were persecuted in the United States, when almost everyone who was in the least bit suspicious to the American authorities was haunted by the infamous Senator McCarthy.
The Rosenbergs were Jews and members of the Communist Party USA. They were accused for leaking American information on the making of atomic bombs to the Soviets.
The presiding judge found them accountable not only for allowing the Soviets to make a nuclear bomb, but also for the Korean War, which according to him began because the communists, now owning a nuclear weapon, had dared to confront the United States.
The couple was sentenced to death by electric chair. Since the prison in which they were held did not have an electric chair, they were transferred to the notorious Sing-Sing maximum security prison 50 miles north of New York City.
Many famous world dignitaries appealed to spare the couple: Nobel laureates Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Einstein, painter Pablo Picasso, and even the Venerable Servant of God Pope Pius XII, but U. S. President Eisenhower was adamant.
The Rosenbergs were executed on this day, just before sunset, at Sing Sing. Julius died from the first electrical shock, but his wife Ethel was still not dead after three shocks.
She was unstrapped and then it was found that her heart was still beating. Then she received two more electric shocks, after which she finally died. Witnesses of the executions stated that smoke had begun to rise from her head.
The Rosenbergs were the only civilians executed for espionage in the United States during the Cold War.