Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Cast of Characters


Joel Barr (1916-1998): Barr was a classmate of Julius Rosenberg at the City College of New York. David Greenglass testified that Rosenberg told him Barr was a member of “our” espionage ring during World War II. Barr left the United States two years before Julius Rosenberg’s arrest in 1950. He eventually resided in Russia, where he did important electronics research. Although Barr denied in interviews that he had been involved in espionage, subsequent research by Walter and MIriam Schneir indicated to them that he mostly likely had been.

Elizabeth Bentley (1908-1963): A member of the Communist Party, Bentley told the FBI in November 1945 and, later, various Congressional investigating committees, that she became involved in espionage while working for Jacob Golos, a Russian emigre who managed Intourist, the Soviet trading agency in New York City. Bentley claimed she collected secret information from government employees for transmittal to the Soviet Union. The press tagged her as the “Red Spy Queen.” Her descriptions of a spy network were never corroborated. In February 1952 she confessed to Harvey Matusow, an ex-FBI informer, that she had to lie about her activities because it enabled her to make a living.

Emanuel Bloch (1901-1954): Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s attorney. While, in hindsight, some attorneys found fault with his representation of the Rosenbergs, his devotion to the cause of keeping them alive was unquestioned. He died less than eight months after the Rosenberg execution, on February 2, l954.

Abraham Brothman (1913-1980): indicted and convicted on a charge of conspiring to obstruct justice, along with co-defendant Miriam Moskowitz. There were overtones, unsupported by evidence, of Soviet espionage. They were tried before the same judge and prosecuted by the same prosecutor as the Rosenbergs four months before the Rosenberg-Sobell trial. Brothman and Moskowitz were convicted and given the maximum sentence allowed – two years – which they served in full.

Roy Cohn (1927-1986): A politically well-connected attorney, Cohn served as an assistant prosecutor in the Brothman/Moskowitz trial, the William W. Remington
trial and in the Rosenberg/Sobell trial. He later became chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s investigation subcommittee. In the spring of 1953, Cohn visited our embassies and American libraries in Europe and ordered the burning of books he deemed “subversive.” After he went into private practice, he was repeatedly cited by clients for unethical behavior. On June 23, 1986, he was formally disbarred for theft of client funds, fraud and perjury.

Max Elitcher (1918-2010): A friend of Morton Sobell from their student days, they worked together at the Navy Bureau of Ordnance in Washington, DC. The two also shared an apartment for a while, and became members of the Communist Party. Elitcher testified at the Rosenberg-Sobell trial that in June 1944 Julius Rosenberg asked him to furnish classified information about his work for transmittal to the USSR. He also testified that Rosenberg told him “Sobell was also helping in the matter.” On cross-examination, Elitcher admitted that he never turned over any classified material to Sobell or Julius Rosenberg. Elitcher also admitted that he had been fearful of prosecution for perjury because he had falsely denied membership in the Communist Party on a federal Loyalty Oath form. This fear had been a factor impelling him to tell his story when he was approached by the FBI shortly after Rosenberg’s arrest. The prosecution chose not to indict him.

Klaus Fuchs (1911-1988): The son of a prominent Protestant theologian in Germany, Fuchs, a physicist, fled from Nazi Germany to Great Britain and eventually became a British citizen. He participated in the British research on the atom bomb, during which he traveled between Britain and the United States atom bomb development center at Los Alamos, NM. In February 1950, Fuchs confessed to Scotland Yard that during his stay in the United States, he turned over secrets about his work to Harry Gold, an American courier for the Soviet Union. Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He returned to Germany after he had served his sentence.

Vivian Glassman (1919 – ): A social worker, she met Ethel Rosenberg through her friend and classmate, Joel Barr, a friend of Julius’s. She was, according to Rosenberg Prosecutor Irving Saypol, connected to the alleged Rosenberg ring, a charge for which the prosecutor produced no supportive evidence. (He had accused her of attempting to pass funds, allegedly given her by Julius Rosenberg, to William Perl for the purpose of fleeing the country. While she did make such a trip, according to what she told her daughter years later, she was given the money by a person she didn’t know and later concluded that she was being set up by the FBI.) She was never otherwise connected to the case. The allegations were never proved. Her reactions to the unsupported charges and government harassment were severe: she gave birth prematurely to a boy who died a few days later.

Harry Gold (1910-1972): Self-confessed American spy and courier for spies Klaus Fuchs and David Greenglass. He was a government witness in the trial of Abraham Brothman and Miriam Moskowitz for conspiracy to obstruct justice (he testified that Brothman, with Moskowitz’ knowledge, had persuaded him to lie to an earlier grand jury that had declined to indict them) and he testified at the Rosenberg-Sobell trial that he had been a courier for Fuchs and David Greenglass, although he made no claim to know anything about the Rosenbergs or Sobell. FBI documents made public in the 1970’s revealed that the FBI had arranged a pre-trial meeting between Gold and David Greenglass where it was agreed that Gold would testify that he would introduce himself at a meeting with the Greenglasses by saying “I come from Julius”, despite never having met Julius. Gold was sentenced to thirty years in prison.

David Greenglass (1922 – ): The older brother of Ethel Rosenberg and former business partner of Julius Rosenberg, he was the chief witness for the prosecution against the Rosenbergs. He had been an army corporal stationed at Los Alamos where the A-bomb was being assembled. He testified that Julius had solicited information from him about the atom bomb on behalf of the Soviet Union, and that had passed such information to him. He also testified that Ethel, his sister, was an active participant in the espionage. Greenglass served ten years of a 15-year sentence. Forty-nine years after the trial, he admitted to a New York Times reporter, and on CBS’ 60 Minutes II that his testimony against his sister had been entirely false.

Ruth Greenglass (1924 – 2008): The wife of David Greenglass, sister-in-law of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, she supported her husband’s testimony that Julius Rosenberg had solicited and received atom bomb information from him. She also supported her husband’s testimony against his sister, which he later (see above) confessed had been totally false. In 2008, her grand jury testimony was made public, and it was discovered that she admitted then to an act of espionage which she later, at the trial, said had been committed by Ethel Rosenberg.

Irving R. Kaufman (1910-1992): The presiding judge at the Brothman/Moskowitz trial, he subsequently (with the help of Roy Cohn) manipulated the judicial assignment process so he would preside over the Rosenberg/Sobell trial, during which he repeatedly conducted prohibited ex parte meetings with the prosecution in the absence of the defense attorneys. In the 1970s, newly released FBI documents revealed he had assured Justice officials, before the trial began, that he would impose death sentences. The American Bar Association felt compelled to create a committee to deal with charges of judicial misconduct against him by more than a hundred lawyers and law professors. The committee, headed by a close friend of Kaufman’s, rejected the charges. Kaufman’s known aspirations for a seat on the Supreme Court were strongly opposed, however, by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who threatened to delay his retirement until Kaufman could no longer be considered a candidate.

William Perl: A former classmate of Julius Rosenberg and Morton Sobell at the College of the City of New York, he was arrested and pressured to corroborate David Greenglass’s accusations against Julius Rosenberg. Perl declined to do so, and was convicted on two counts of perjury. He was sentenced to five years on each count, the maximum punishment allowable, but was permitted to serve the time concurrently.

Marshall Perlin (1920-1998): One of several young attorneys who responded to Emanuel Bloch’s call for help to raise valid legal issues with the Court of Appeals to reverse the verdicts and death sentences in the Rosenberg-Sobell case. He later served in an advisory capacity to the sons of the Rosenbergs and gave assistance to Morton Sobell.

William A. Reuben (1914-2004): A former public relations director for the American Civil Liberties Union and a decorated World War II veteran, he wrote a series of articles for the National Guardian that raised the first doubts about the fairness of the Rosenberg/Sobell trial. He was the first to call the prosecution’s and the judge’s claim that the Soviet Union’s scientists could not have developed the Soviet atom bomb for many years without the help of spies. Reuben was one of the founders of the National Committee to Seek Justice in the Rosenberg Case in the fall of 1951. The Committee launched a campaign for a new trial or clemency for the Rosenbergs which received worldwide support, including an appeal for clemency by Pope Pius XII. Reuben’s findings were also published in a 1955 book, The Atom Spy Hoax.

O. John Rogge (1904-1981): The attorney for David and Ruth Greenglass and Max Elitcher, he had been a special assistant U. S. Attorney General who had broken up the politically corrupt Huey Long machine in Louisiana. He was fired after World War II because of an unauthorized disclosure of illegal wartime trading with the enemy by American oil corporations. In the same year that he agreed to represent the Greenglasses and Elitcher, he was indicted, along with W. E. Dubois on the grounds that, as officials of a peace organization, they had failed to register as “subversives” and as “agents” of the Soviet Union. The indictment created a major conflict of interest for him, which may have affected his representation of the Greenglasses and Elitcher. During the appeals for the Rosenbergs and Sobell, Rogge took no steps to impede the defense’s use of an important handwritten memo by David Greenglass to him, admitting that he was prepared to say whatever the FBI told him to, even if he had no personal knowledge of events he would describe. The memo had been in Rogge’s file, and if he had chosen to do so, he could have prevented its use by the defense.

Alfred Sarant (1918-1979): A friend of Julius Rosenberg and Joel Barr, who participated in espionage efforts with Sobell and others during the war. Sarant eventually made his way to Russia, where with Barr, he was employed in developing computer systems.

Irving H. Saypol (1905-1977): Chief prosecutor in the Brothman/Moskowitz and Rosenberg-Sobell trials, Saypol was schooled in the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, serving at one time as its Law Secretary. In 1976, when he was a New York State judge, he was indicted for bribery and perjury. The Tammany Hall-dominated judiciary, however, interceded on his behalf, and the indictment was dropped. Saypol retired from the bench and died a year later.

Michael and Ann Sidorovich: He was a high school friend of Julius’s. Later, he and his wife Ann were the Rosenbergs’ neighbors in Knickerbocker Village, New York City, before moving to Cleveland. According to David Greenglass, Julius proposed sending Ann to New Mexico to retrieve information about the atomic bomb. In August 1950, Ann Sidorovich was called to testify before the grand jury, where she denied the charge. Neither she nor her husband were ever indicted.

Morton Sobell (1917 – ): A friend of Julius Rosenberg and co-defendant of Julius and Ethel in their trial, he was at odds with his defense attorneys at his trial and requested they put him on the stand to testify, which they refused to do. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years for what the prosecution and the judge described as treason, although the indictment did not charge either him or the Rosenbergs with treason. He was released after serving 19 years. In 2008 he confessed that he and Julius Rosenberg gave classified defensive weaponry information to the USSR.

Jerome Eugene Tartakow: A prison-inmate informer for the FBI at the New York Federal House of Detention for Men, in 1951 he offered to act as an FBI-informer against Julius Rosenberg who was detained there. Among the crimes for which Tartakow was convicted were pimping, desertion from the navy, car thefts and armed robberies. He told the FBI that Julius Rosenberg had confessed to him what he would not confess in court, nor even to save his or wife’s life. Although the FBI (and most historians and lawyers), found him unreliable and unbelievable, the alleged Rosenberg “confession” was featured in the book, “The Rosenberg File,” by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton.

Anatoly Yakovlev: A consular official of the USSR, to whom Harry Gold said he passed classified information, he left the United States in December 1946.