Ethel Rosenberg Chapter

Ethel Rosenberg: A Reminiscence by Miriam Moskowitz from her book, “Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice”

In the summer of 1950 in New York City Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were arrested and charged with having conspired to commit espionage in behalf of the Soviet Union.

Ethel Rosenberg

Ethel Rosenberg

They were in their early thirties and the parents of two young sons; she was a homemaker and he was an engineer who ran his own small machine shop. Neither was able to make bail; the judge had imposed $100,000 bail for each and for this family of modest means it was an impossible sum to raise. They were jailed to await their trial.

In that same summer in New York City the government had indicted Abraham Brothman and me for conspiring to obstruct justice in a case which had the same overtones of Soviet espionage. The two witnesses against us, Elizabeth Bentley and Harry Gold, would also testify later against the Rosenbergs. We were tried and convicted in November 1950 and remained in jail while we awaited a decision on our appeals.

Ethel and I were both incarcerated in the Women’s House of Detention in New York City but were kept separated, she on the ninth floor and I on the fifth, and we had never known each other before. The police van became our unplanned social outpost; we traveled together in it when we went to court, I to attend my trial and she to meet with her lawyer and with Julius to plan their court defense.

The section of the van behind the driver was paneled off and a row of benches stretched along each side. A grate across the middle separated the men from the women, all of whom would be transported together. The men would be picked up first at the federal Detention Center on West Street. They were loaded into the front section and secured by the grate. Then the van rolled across town and picked up the women; they sat in the rear on the other side of the grate.