Ethel and Julius Rosenberg became the first U.S. civilians executed for espionage after they were found guilty of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. While the couple maintained their innocence to the end, intercepted messages between Moscow and its American operatives, recently released by the National Security Agency, indicated that Julius Rosenberg both spied and was used to recruit other spies, and that his wife knew about his activities. The preoccupation with "Reds" at that time is evident from several other headlines on the page. An excerpt from The Post of June 20, 1953:
By Relman Morin
OSSINING, N.Y., June 19 (AP) --
Atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died tonight in Sing Sing's electric chair.The first to die was Julius Rosenberg, who was pronounced dead at 8:06 p.m. (EDT).
Ethel Rosenberg followed her husband and was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m.
Neither husband nor wife said anything before they died.
They were the first civilians in American history to be executed for espionage. They were convicted of betraying American atomic secrets to Russia.
The electrocutions took place after a suspense-packed 24-hour delay while the Supreme Court studied and rejected a fifth appeal in the case.
Julius died after three jolts. He was placed in the chair at 8:04 p.m. and was pronounced dead two and three-quarter minutes later.
His wife, however, required five jolts, and the time was four and one-half minutes.
The pair, who maintained an unemotional front throughout the day, went to their deaths a day after their fourteenth wedding anniversary and a few minutes before the start of the Hebrew sabbath.
As Mrs. Rosenberg entered the death chamber she was accompanied by Mrs. Helen Evans, prison matron, and Mrs. Lucy Many, a telephone operator.
Mrs. Rosenberg turned just before she was placed in the electric chair, drew Mrs. Evans toward her and they kissed.
The matron was visibly affected. She quickly turned and, with Mrs. Many, left the chamber.
The Rosenbergs displayed no emotion whatever.
At 8 p.m. the voice of Rabbi Irving Koslowe could be heard in the corridor leading to the death chamber.
He was intoning the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want."
"Though I walk in the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil." ...
Rosenberg, wearing dark brown trousers and a white undershirt and slipper-like shoes, followed him.
Rosenberg was not supported by the guards. ...
The leather mask covering his face, the helmet over his head, and the electrodes to his right leg were then attached.
The convicted spy sat quietly, awaiting the charge that was to send him to his doom.
In an alcove off to the side of the death chamber, Joseph Francell, the executioner, awaited the signal.
When it came, there was a rattle and a hum in the otherwise deathly still room. ...
The first shock lasted three seconds. The two following lasted 57 seconds each.
Each time the straps were strained as his body pressed hard against them.
Then the strange sound, a blend of humming and buzzing, ceased in the room.