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From The Archives: The Rosenberg Executions

Sixty years ago on June 19, 1953, married couple Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed in the state of New York for the crime of conspiracy to commit espionage. They had been convicted for allegedly passing information to the Soviet Union that assisted in the U.S.S.R.'s development of the atomic bomb. The Rosenbergs were the first civilians executed for espionage in U.S. history, and their case was one of the most sensational of its era, stirring up both anticommunist paranoia and accusations that the two were merely scapegoats. (7 PHOTOS)

Julius Rosenberg in a police van in New York after his arrest in 1950. A longtime communist supporter, he was reportedly recruited as a spy by the Soviet NKVD during his U.S. Army service in World War II.
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Julius Rosenberg in a police van in New York after his arrest in 1950. A longtime communist supporter, he was reportedly recruited as a spy by the Soviet NKVD during his U.S. Army service in World War II.

FBI agents lead Julius Rosenberg away shortly after his arrest. His wife's brother, David Greenglass, had confessed to participating in a spy ring that he said included the Rosenbergs.
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FBI agents lead Julius Rosenberg away shortly after his arrest. His wife's brother, David Greenglass, had confessed to participating in a spy ring that he said included the Rosenbergs.

Later evidence emerged that Julius Rosenberg had in fact acted as a courier and recruiter for Soviet intelligence. But the involvement of Ethel Rosenberg, seen here in an undated photo, was more ambiguous, and may have involved little more than typing notes for Julius.
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Later evidence emerged that Julius Rosenberg had in fact acted as a courier and recruiter for Soviet intelligence. But the involvement of Ethel Rosenberg, seen here in an undated photo, was more ambiguous, and may have involved little more than typing notes for Julius.

The case helped fuel the anticommunist investigations of the 1950s in the United States. Julius Rosenberg said, "There had to be a Rosenberg case because there had to be an intensification of the hysteria in America to make the Korean War acceptable to the American people."
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The case helped fuel the anticommunist investigations of the 1950s in the United States. Julius Rosenberg said, "There had to be a Rosenberg case because there had to be an intensification of the hysteria in America to make the Korean War acceptable to the American people."

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg shortly before their execution on June 19, 1953.
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Ethel and Julius Rosenberg shortly before their execution on June 19, 1953.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, the site of the executions. Some 5,000 people gathered in New York City on the night of the executions to show their support for the Rosenbergs, whose punishment many saw as disproportionate.
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Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, the site of the executions. Some 5,000 people gathered in New York City on the night of the executions to show their support for the Rosenbergs, whose punishment many saw as disproportionate.

Sophie Rosenberg, mother of Julius Rosenberg, with the couple's sons Michael and Robert, in 1954, eight months after their parents' deaths.
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Sophie Rosenberg, mother of Julius Rosenberg, with the couple's sons Michael and Robert, in 1954, eight months after their parents' deaths.

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