NYC Council Honors Ethel Rosenberg for ‘Great Bravery

“A lot of hysteria was created around anti-communism."

Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed with her husband Julius for treason in 1953, was honored this week by the City Council on what would have been her 100th birthday, the New York Post reports.

Three council members joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in issuing two proclamations praising Rosenberg, a Lower East Side resident, for “demonstrating great bravery” in leading a 1935 strike against the National New York Packing and Supply Co., where she worked as a clerk. The proclamations also said she was “wrongfully” executed for conspiring with her husband to pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

“A lot of hysteria was created around anti-communism and how we had to defend our country, and these two people were traitors and we rushed to judgment and they were executed,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is unsurprisingly a Democrat.

Rush to judgment? The Rosenbergs were "motivated by loyalty to the Soviet Union, not opposition to fascism as their defenders claim," explains historian Ron Radosh. The Rosenberg spy ring "provided vast quantities of technical data to the Soviet Union that helped it achieve near parity with the United States in the skies over Korea and Vietnam."

"When the Cold War turned hot in Korea, this technology was used to kill American soldiers," Radosh writes. For example, the purloined information was "probably used in the design of the Russian high-tailed MiG fighter jet that was deployed in Korea against American airmen."

"Rosenberg himself gave his Soviet handler Alexander Feklisov the proximity fuse, which was used to track Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane and to shoot it down during the Eisenhower administration," Radosh writes. The Rosenberg network "passed on the 12,000 page blueprints for the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, airborne radars for nighttime navigation and bombing," and for innovations in radar technology.

"In the entire Cold War period less than two hundred leaders and functionaries of the [Communist] Party ever went to prison, in most cases serving less than two years," wrote David Horowitz in Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey. "This was not a small number or an insignificant price to pay for their political allegiances. But, considering the Party's organizational ties to an enemy power armed with nuclear weapons poised to attack America, it was not a large one, either."

The Rosenbergs were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet and executed by the electric chair in 1953. Both proclaimed their innocence to the end. They were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower declined to grant clemency for the couple, stating:

“I can only say that, by immeasurably increasing the chances of atomic war, the Rosenbergs may have condemned to death tens of millions of innocent people all over the world. The execution of two human beings is a grave matter. But even graver is the thought of the millions of dead whose deaths may be directly attributable to what these spies have done.”