Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Rosenberg Spy Affair - How the USSR got Nuclear Weapons - COLD WAR

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One of the most persistent images of the cold war is that of the spy. Through bouts of paranoia,

like that stirred up by McCarthyism, we built this narrative that the main front between

the communists and capitalists was a spy vs spy game right out of the pages of Mad Magazine.

Hey, do they still make Mad magazine? [checks phone]

It looks like it literally ended the same month we wrote thistopical.

Today, we're going to show an actual spy story from the cold war. Probably the most well-known

and popular of them, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Were these evil spies working for the Ruskies?

Or scapegoats executed at the altar of paranoia and antisemitism? Im your host David and

this is...The Cold War.

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War Channel and dont forget, “The trouble with a cold war is that it doesn't take too

long before it becomes heated.”

In 1949, the Soviet Union became the second country to detonate a nuclear bomb. This came

as a shock at all levels of American society, not because they didn't think it would happen,

but that it happened as quickly as it did! The US began to suspect that someone with

access to nuclear secrets was handing information to the Soviets. There was a spy in their midst.

After a rapid investigation to find the spy, the US became aware of a theoretical physicist

named Klaus Fuchs. Fuchs worked on the Manhatten Project, the American project to build an

atomic weapon during World War 2. Fuchs was a German refugee and represented a group of

British scientists on the project. The US discovered that crucial documents on the creation

of nuclear weapons had been smuggled by him to the Soviet Union. Under arrest, he confessed

to the crime and fingered Harry Gold as his courier. Gold then ratted out all his sources,

including a man named David Greenglass. David began to tell a story of how he was recruited

into this soviet spy network through his wife. His wife was recruited to rope David in via

David's Brother in Law, Julius Rosenberg. David's sister was Ethel.

According to David's testimony, they made contact in 1944 with a Soviet agent working

as a counsel for the USSR in New York named Anatoli Yakovlev. In June of 1950, this confession

led to the arrest of Julius Rosenberg, and about 2 months later after she testified,

Ethel Rosenberg was also arrested. What they did, how far its extent went, and

the impact it made has been debated by historians for decades. Julius was a US army engineer,

working at a lab during the Second World War in 1940. But not just any lab, the engineering

lab in Fort Monmouth New Jersey. Here a lot of sensitive and critical technologies were

being worked on by the Army's best engineers, including guided-missile control and radar.

He was however eventually fired from his position in 1945 for having been a member of the Communist

party in the past.. During the time he was there, however, he

managed to smuggle classified information to the Soviets via radio. He also recruited

more agents into The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs or NKVD or Stalin's secret

police and intelligence, whichever you prefer. Under Rosenberg's direction, secret plans

for things like jet engines, and yes even information on the Manhattan Project was snuck

to the USSR. In a secret meeting, Gordon Dean, the chaiman

of the US Atomic Energy Commission, himself a lawyer, decided that to get as much information

from Julius as possible, they would need to at least threaten him with the death penalty.

They wanted to make an example of him, and they decided to threaten his wife Ethel as

well, despite having a much weaker case against her.

That being said, the Greenglasses changed their testimony early in the Grand jury, claiming

that Ethel had a closer role in the spycraft. Mainly that they had given Julius notes he

had Ethel type up. In exchange for this testimony, Ruth Greenglass had the charges against her

dropped. Ethel herself pled the fifth and even denied her parole to find a place to

take care of their two children. Despite all this pressure, neither Ethel nor

Julius gave up any information on other members of the spy ring and were thus indicted.

The next year, the Rosenbergs went up on trial for espionage. There David Greenglass testified

that he gave a sketch of the Fat Man, the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki to Julius

and that he saw Ethel typing up these notes. Both the Rosenbergs pled the fifth and refused

to talk about their involvement with the communist party, nor incriminate themselves. They were

eventually convicted of espionage, and sentenced to death. Roy Cohn, the same Roy Cohn who

was also the infamous lawyer for Joseph McCarthy, is noted as the person who specifically pushed

for the death penalty specifically. The Rosenbergs maintained their innocence and claimed they

were being framed. Soon after the trial and conviction, an investigative

journalism piece in the National Guardian looked into the case the US had against the

Rosenbergs. It was like the podcast Serial in that it quickly made many Americans feel

that, at the very least, the punishment was too harsh. Or at worst, that they were both

indeed innocent. There was a movement to try and get them clemency for their execution.

Many claimed the conviction was antisemitic, and protests broke out around the country.

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre described it as:

"a legal lynching which smears with blood a whole nation. By killing the Rosenbergs,

you have quite simply tried to halt the progress of science by human sacrifice. Magic, witch-hunts,

autos-da-fé, sacrificeswe are here getting to the point: your country is sick with fear

... you are afraid of the shadow of your own bomb."

Many celebrities tried to appeal the execution of the Rosenbergs, ranging from Albert Einstein

to the FREAKING POPE, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. On June 19th, 1953, the Rosenbergs

were executed via the electric chair, the only American civilians to be executed for

espionage during the Cold War. Ever since their execution, various activists,

including their own sons who became orphans, have called out issues regarding the case

against the Rosenbergs. Was this couple actually a pair of spies? Were these two people executed

needlessly in some fit of McCarthyist madness? For decades, this was a big topic of conversation

and eventually picked up by historians. Over 4 decades later, in 1995 a World War

2 era counterintelligence program called the Venona project was declassified and released

by the US government. These documents settled the issue of whether the Rosenbergs were guilty

once and for all. The evidence clearly showed that Julius Rosenberg was indeed the spy the

state tried to make him out to be. He was at the centre of a legitimate spy ring. However,

the same information, as well as some additional evidence which came to light later did show

that Ethel Rosenberg's role was comparatively tiny. She didn't play much of a part, if any,

in the spying. Both these documents and a 2008 release of the grand jury testimony revealed

that the Greenglass testimonials didnt match up with the accounts of the Soviets.

The Greenglasses likely didn't need persuasion from the Rosenbergs to become spies.

Since then, David Greenglass recanted his testimonial which claimed Ethel typed up Julis's

notes, claiming that it was his wife who did so. He revealed the prosecution encouraged

him to change his story in order to convict Ethel.

And no one campaigned harder to right this historical wrong than their sons. They argued

for decades that the case against their parents was full of misconduct and that the evidence

against their mother specifically was weak and full of holes, especially when seeking

the death penalty. To this day, they both make the case that neither deserved the death

penalty and that the claim they traded nuclear secrets to the Soviets is dubious.

Well, let's look into it. Did the Rosenbergs give the Soviets the secret info needed to

make their own nuclear bomb, RDS-1 or Joe 1 in 1949? First, let's look at the timeline.

The estimates of when the Soviets would get the bomb were just that, estimates. Some of

the more informed estimates claimed that they could have the bomb as soon as 1950, which

is really only a year after the time they actually built it. It could be that the US

maybe underestimated the Soviets' capability to independently conduct scientific research,

something they'd do again when we get into the early space race.

We can also look at the work of Boris Brokhovich, an engineer who worked on that same atomic

bomb. He claimed that the bomb was not developed by spy information, and that "You sat the

Rosenbergs in the electric chair for nothing...we got nothing from the Rosenbergs." Given that

neither of the Rosenbergs were nuclear scientists, it is unlikely the information they provided

could have helped build an atomic bomb as many of the secrets are in the enriching of

plutonium. Does that cast doubt on whether they deserve the death penalty? Well, I'm

not a lawyer, so I have no clue what the answer is here.

After all this information came to light, many activists have tried to make a case for

a posthumous pardon of Ethel Rosenberg. Both of her sons and even Senator Elizabeth Warren

called on President Barack Obama to exonerate Ethel and make the claim her execution was

a mistake. And, I mean, Obama has said: "We've gone through moments in our history

when we acted out of fearand we came to regret it. We've seen our government mistreat

our fellow citizens. And it has been a shameful part of our history."

This is a story still in action today. Obama never exonerated Ethel Rosenberg, and the

battle shows the echoes of the profound impact McCarthyism has left on the United States.

As part of the story, Robert Meeropol, one of the Rosenbergs's sons, began a charity

known as the Rosenberg Fund for Children. It's a charity which helps the children of

American progressive activists targeted by the government as well as children activists

targeted themselves. We're going to talk a lot about people from

all sides of the political spectrum being summarily detained, even killed because of

the politics of the Cold War. This story should remind us all that each of these people have

faces and families and that this geopolitical struggle comes with a lot of human tragedy.

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the Cold War Channel and dont forget, “The trouble with a cold war is that it doesn't

take too long before it becomes heated.”

The Description of Rosenberg Spy Affair - How the USSR got Nuclear Weapons - COLD WAR