An American couple blamed for espionage in USSR's favor became some kind of a symbol of that epoch
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed 50 years ago, on June 19, 1953. The Rosenbergs were blamed for espionage in favor of the Soviet Union. The people would have been justified if the story happened in some other time in a different country, especially that the Rosenbergs' guilt wasn't proved. However, no other scenario was possible in the USA at the height of an epoch that was later called "the times of scoundrels". That was a period when people were under suspicion not only for sympathies to the USSR but also for any criticism in the address of that-time political system. The Rosenbergs were awfully unlucky. At the same time the couple became some kind of a symbol of that epoch.
The disputes concerning connection of the Rosenbergs to the transmission of America's nuclear secrets to the USSR are still vivid. Until recently, many of investigators have been sure that the accusations were false. However, memoirs of Soviet secret service men - Sudoplatov, Feklistov and others - published in the 1990s unveiled that the Rosenbergs had been enlisted by the Soviet intelligence already in 1938. Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev told that Joseph Stalin highly appreciated efforts of the Rosenbergs. Once he said in Khruschev's presence: "The Rosenbergs proved to be very helpful for the Soviet Union. They were brave people." Stalin mentioned the American couple in the past tense for unknown reasons: although a sentence was passed on them in 1951, they were executed in two years, after the death of Joseph Stalin.
The time seems to have passed its verdict: the Rosenbergs were guilty of espionage in favor of the USSR. However the situation wasn't that simple in fact. A son of the Rosenbergs, Robert Meeropol says that the parents were blamed not for espionage or treason; they were blamed for espionage collusion. In other words, the people were blamed not for committing a crime, but for an intention to commit it. According to Robert Meerpol, his parents had been arrested and executed for one indictment, but they were tried for a different one.
There were many people who considered the indictment against the Rosenbergs far-fetched. Such famous people as Charles de Gaulle, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann applied to the US authorities for abolishment of the death sentence to the couple. But the appeals remained unheard. The US Government supported by the public opinion urgently needed legal proceedings of that kind to show the whole of the world that America was ready to fight against the Soviet Union till final victory. So, as the saying goes: you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs.
It was also especially important for the authorities that the Rosenbergs must admit their guilt and repent. A special telephone line had been kept open from the prison to the Justice Department in Washington so that if either of the Rosenbergs opened-up, a last-minute presidential reprieve would be possible. But Julius Rosenberg rejected the last opportunity to save the life; he said that human dignity couldn't be sold.