Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy

Anne Sebba. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-19863-1
Biographer Sebba (Les Parisiennes) delivers a sympathetic yet opaque portrait of Ethel Rosenberg, “the only American woman killed for a crime other than murder.” Convicted of espionage and executed alongside her husband, Julius, in 1953, Rosenberg was “a committed Communist,” according to Sebba, but not a Soviet spy. Raised in a tenement house in New York City’s Lower East Side, Rosenberg (née Greenglass) aspired to be a singer and an actress before marrying Julius, an Army Signal Corps engineer, in 1939. Sebba finds ample evidence of Rosenberg’s “dogged persistence” and desire to give her life meaning, including her active participation in a shipping company strike and her enrollment in “an advanced and highly theoretical course in child psychology” in order to relieve her anxiety about motherhood and be a better parent than her “cold and domineering” mother was to her. Though Rosenberg likely knew that Julius was recruiting spies—including her own brother, David Greenglass, an army machinist who worked at Los Alamos—for the Soviet Union, there is no proof, Sebba contends, that she took part in espionage activities herself, despite David’s later testimony to the contrary. Though the insights into Rosenberg’s family life are intriguing, she often recedes into the background and remains an enigmatic figure. Still, this is a persuasive argument that Rosenberg’s death was a tragic miscarriage of justice. (June)
Reviewed on : 02/25/2021
Release date: 06/08/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-80231-6
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