Testimony From Brother in Rosenberg Spy Case Released


The brother of Ethel Rosenberg, who was a star witness against his sister and brother-in-law in a sensational Cold War atomic spying case, minimized his dealings with his sister during an earlier appearance before a grand jury and said that they had never discussed her role “at all,” according to court records unsealed Wednesday.

The revelation may heighten suspicion that Ethel Rosenberg was wrongly convicted and executed in an espionage case that captivated the country at the height of the McCarthy era.

The grand jury testimony from David Greenglass had been withheld even as other crucial court records have been unsealed in the last decade. A federal judge ordered the 46-page transcript unsealed following Greenglass’s death last year at age 92.

Historians had greatly anticipated the release of the records — the final crucial piece of evidence to be made public — in hopes of learning more how a brother came to betray his sister with trial testimony that, decades later, he revealed to be false.

Greenglass said at trial that he had given the Rosenbergs data that he had obtained while working for the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. He said he saw his older sister transcribing the information on a portable typewriter at the Rosenbergs’ New York apartment in 1945.

But he later told a grand jury that he and his sister never discussed such matters. And decades later, he admitted to lying in order to protect his wife, Ruth. He said it was likely his wife, rather than Ethel, who typed up the notes that were passed to the Soviets.