THE BLOG

The Rosenberg Fund for Children's "Constructive Revenge"

06/12/2013 10:34 am ET | Updated Aug 12, 2013

Sixty years after Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage, the New York City Council is mulling a resolution stating that they should not have been put to death.

The resolution, drafted by Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, a Lower Manhattan Democrat, expresses "the shared belief" that the Rosenbergs "should not have been executed 60 years ago, and that capital punishment should not be the ultimate sentence in any crime." Her draft proclamation, which has not been voted on yet, is expected to be presented to the Rosenberg family at City Hall next Wednesday, the anniversary of the execution at Sing Sing.

On Sunday, the Rosenberg Fund for Children will sponsor a program titled "Carry It Forward: Celebrate the Children of Resistance" at Town Hall. Among the scheduled participants are Angela Davis, the radical activist and former university professor, and Eve Ensler, an author and actress.

Robert Meeropol, the Rosenbergs' younger son and founder of the fund, is being succeeded as executive director by his daughter Jenn, who is 40.

"To mark the 60th anniversary of the politically motivated execution of my parents," he said, "I am joining with my family and others to reaffirm our commitment to ensure that children of contemporary political prisoners and other progressive activists in the United States do not suffer in isolation, without the support of a broader community."

The fund provides them with educational and emotional support, a mission that Mr. Meeropol described as "constructive revenge."

"There is a healthy element to revenge, the desire to be active, not passive, but the problem with revenge is it's destructive," he said. "The fund is my constructive revenge: Personally satisfying and socially beneficial."

The Meeropols no longer proclaim their parents' innocence, especially since one of their fellow defendants, Morton Sobell, admitted in an interview with me five years ago that he was a spy.

"It's pretty obvious my father was involved with Mort and others with helping the Soviet Union with various military and industrial knowhow and it's hard for me to imagine that Ethel didn't know what Julius was doing, but she wasn't actively involved," Mr. Meeropol said.

"What often gets lost, the reasons the executions took place, was because they supposedly stole the secret of the atomic bomb," he said. "Not only was that not true but the government knew it wasn't true. The awesome power of the government was used to execute two people for something they didn't do, and that's very dangerous. And that reverberates even today."

Looking back six decades, would Julius have thought what they did was worth it, given, among other things, the collapse of the Soviet Union?

"It's a mixed bag, but I'm glad that they were engaged," their son said. "I don't like the idea of them being innocent lambs led to slaughter. I'm more comfortable with them being political actors who made difficult decisions."