Then there is the “historian” Howard Zinn, who now says that he never said the Rosenbergs were innocent. Readers of his People’s History of the United States might be confused, since his discussion of the case is written in such a way as to cast grave doubt as to whether they were guilty, implying throughout that the witnesses against the Rosenbergs were more than likely lying. At any rate, Zinn now says the “most important thing was that they did not get a fair trial in the atmosphere of cold war hysteria.”
The left-wing novelist E. L. Doctorow, who wrote a novel and film based on the case, The Book of Daniel and the movie Daniel, also sees the Rosenbergs as martyrs who “were burned alive.” Even Tom Hayden chimes in that the case was a “problem” because his left-wing generation had a “dogmatic faith in the Rosenbergs’ innocence,” while the other side made a “fantastic proposition that the Soviets only got the bomb because of the Rosenbergs.” Unaware of atomic history, Hayden reveals his own ignorance. The Rosenbergs helped the Soviets in many ways, as I illustrated beforehand. As for the bomb, scholars and Russian scientists have long acknowledged that the first bomb exploded by the Soviets was an exact replica of the bomb exploded in Los Alamos and was obtained by them from their various spies at the Manhattan Project. And Hayden too has no words of condemnation for the betrayal of his country by the Rosenbergs.
Finally, one more point needs to be made. The Rosenberg’s defenders continually fall back on the claim that after all, they were only helping an “American ally.” The implication, of course, is that the Soviets needed what we chose not to give them; they were only helping a mutual victory against fascism when the reactionary American government held back weaponry that was rightfully due the Soviets. After all, the Rosenbergs saw the Soviet Union as the vanguard of anti-fascism, and they helped Stalin as the good anti-fascists they were.
There is one problem with that defense. Julius Rosenberg became a Soviet spy and set up his network before June of 1941; in other words, during the years of the infamous Nazi-Soviet Pact, when Stalin aligned his country with Hitler’s Germany. He saw himself as a Soviet partisan fighting behind enemy lines on behalf of Soviet Communism. He was, as David Greenglass put it to me, a “soldier for Stalin.” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their recruits, including Morton Sobell, wanted to do anything necessary for the Soviet cause, before, during and after the war against Hitler. When it came down to it, they were first and foremost Soviet patriots who hid their treachery on phony remonstrations of their love for America.