Thursday, October 19, 2017

WHAT HAPPENED TO MICHAEL AND ROBERT ROSENBERG?

If you want to read my posts for this week in sequence, please start with BATTLE OF THE BANDS: STRANGE FRUIT. The contenders are Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. You have until midnight on Friday, October 20th, to vote. I'll announce the winner on Saturday, the 21st.

My posts that expand on information about Strange Fruit are the following (in order):

THE ORIGINS OF STRANGE FRUIT
WHO WAS LEWIS ALLAN, THE AUTHOR OF STRANGE FRUIT?
THE STRANGE CASE OF JULIUS & ETHEL ROSENBERG

And now for today's post:

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today we finally get to the connection between Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Abel Meeropol, who wrote Strange Fruit.

Michael and Robert Rosenberg, known as Robbie, went through hell when their parents were arrested, tried, and executed. Michael, who was ten at the time of the execution, remembers their parents better than Robbie, who was only six.

Here the boys are escorted by their grandmother to visit their parents in prison a few days before the execution:



Although the boys spent some time with each of their grandmothers, no relatives wanted to keep them. Everyone was afraid to be associated with the convicted criminals. Michael himself recalls denying that he had any association with his parents.

They ended up in an orphanage, where they were abused.

Their parents' will named one of their lawyers, Emanuel Bloch, as the boys' guardian. Bloch found a home for the two with none other than Abel and Anne Meeropol, who had never met the Rosenbergs but were sympathetic to their cause.

Abel and Anne adopted the boys, who are still known as Michael and Robert Meeropol.

Here are Michael and Robbie with Abel Meerepol:



The two credit the Meeropols with saving their lives. Both grew up to have their own families, successful careers, and to acknowledge their identities as the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

In fact, for many years they fought to clear their father's name. As more information became available to them, they accepted his guilt, but continue to believe that what he provided to the Soviets was useless.

They asked President Obama to exonerate their mother before he left office, which he did not do. They are ardent believers in their mother's innocence. She was convicted because of her own brother's false testimony.

When he consented to an interview with 60 Minutes in 2001, David Greenglass stated: "I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister. How do you like that?" He still insisted on having his face and voice disguised. 

Thanks to all of you who have followed this series of posts that began with the song Strange Fruit.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Michael Meeropol


Robert Meeropol

If you'd like to read more about Michael and Robert Meeropol, I suggest https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-brothers-rosenberg-cold-war-spying-2/, where you can read the transcript of their interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. I also recommend Ivy Meeropol's documentary, Heir To An Execution. Ivy is Michael's daughter. The documentary is available on HBO Now, can be purchased from Amazon, or is available on DVD from Netflix.







44 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I've been fascinated by the Rosenberg case for many years. I was surprised when I saw Ivy Meeropol's documentary and found out that the boys were adopted by the author of Strange Fruit.

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  2. That is some pretty heavy stuff. A very compelling story and I am familiar with the basics, but not the disposition of the kids.

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    1. Michael and Robby went through a nightmare and then landed in a very loving home.

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  3. It seems so weird, seeing those kids all grown up now.

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    1. When they were young men, they looked like pretty typical hippie types, or protester types, with longish hair and mustaches.

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  4. Over the years I have read snippets of the story. Thank you so much for pulling it together.

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    1. I could write about the Rosenbergs and their sons for days and not begin to cover the story.

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  5. I have been reading every post and as fishyducky said fascinating.
    Unbelievable and yet... Obama commuted, Army Pvt Manning who leaked secret documents and also went to jail a man and came out a women, we taxpayers paid for that. Doesn't seem right somehow. A Mum is executed on very flimsy evidence and Manning goes free, works in a bookshop I read.

    I am so happy to read that the boys were adopted and had a better life. I cried when I read this part about the boys.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. If the truth about Ethel Rosenberg had been known, she might have been convicted on charges of aiding and abetting her husband. That's the worst thing she could be accused of, and it's certainly not worthy of the death penalty. I would like to know President Obama's reason behind this decision.

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  6. I'm glad the Meeropols adopted those poor boys and gave them safe haven. I'm going to check our Canadian version of Netflix to see if that documentary is available here. Thanks for these great posts, Janie!

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    1. You're welcome. Thank you for reading. Michael and Robby adored the Meeropols and very quickly started calling them Mommy and Daddy.

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  7. Can't imagine what they had gone through. I don't blame them for hiding their true identities. What if people wanted to get back at them for who their parents were. Still, very sad.

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    1. Michael Meeropol said that when he denied being their son, he felt terrible about it, but at the time, if other kids had known, they probably would have beaten up Michael and Robby. They haven't hidden their identities in many years, though.

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    1. It is, but Michael takes is grateful that his parents didn't do what David and Ruth Greenglass did. The Greenglasses had children who are probably about the same age as Michael and Robby. I wonder if they ever tell anyone who they really are.

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  9. Janie, again watch "The Assets" It is a series based on the book. I really enjoyed it.

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  10. It seems that there were no real villains here but suspicion and prejudice. At least, no villains deserving of execution.

    A wonderful series, Janie. I'm so glad those boys had a good life after a very hard start. And I so admire Abel Meeropol for his song.

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  11. What a weird coincidence...or intersection of people's lives. Totally fascinating. I am so glad there was a happier ending for those boys. :)

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  12. Hi Janie - this has been interesting to read ... but I'm glad the boys were able to live happily and accept their parentage - even if for a while they couldn't (understandably) acknowledge it ... and Abel Meeropol created amazing music ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Michael and Robby still receive royalties from at least one of the songs that Abel wrote.

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  13. I'm so glad you shared this. I never knew how the tale ended. I always thought the dad and mom was innocent.

    I cannot believe people shunned these children. The Meeropols are some awesome people.

    Great posts!

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    1. Thanks! In Ivy Meerepol's documentary, she tries to contact some relatives. Only one was willing to meet her, and his family had changed their name from Rosenberg to Roberts. The stigma surrounding the execution is still strong.

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  14. These grandparents who wouldn't take the orphaned boys leave me speechless. I'm sure there is more to their story, too, (there always is) but somehow I can see a very unhealthy group of people, ones who created a sick family dynamic and would raise children to grow up with so much angst that they thought it right to turn their backs on the values of their own communities. Betraying country is not a good thing. But betraying family? Much more grave.
    The Meeropol boys were survivors in many ways. They were so unfortunate, but then got fortunate to be out of their birth families.

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    1. They lived with Ethel's mother for a while and were taken out of the home by a social worker because she treated Michael and Robby so badly. Their paternal grandmother made more of an effort with them. She was the one who took them to see their parents in prison. She also gave her consent for the adoption. Perhaps she was too elderly to take on two young boys. Other family members flat out refused to help.

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  15. Great, very interesting story. But, depressing. I think I'll go have a bowl of ice cream to cheer me up now.
    ...........awwwwwwwwwwww, someone ate all the chocolate from the Neapolitan....now THAT'S depressing.

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    1. Buy yourself an entire gallon of chocolate ice cream, Penwusser. No one wants the strawberry and the vanilla.

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  16. Those poor children! I can't imagine the burden they have carried throughout their lives. I'm glad to learn that they grew up to have families and successful careers. I'm betting that Abel Meeropol had a horror of all executions. He and his wife were certainly compassionate people to take on two boys who were traumatized.

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  17. Fascinating story. It's horrid how the "sins of the parents" can ruin the lives of their children. I'm glad the Meeropols adopted them and put some stability and love back into their lives. (Is it just me, or does Robert look like he should be singing harmony with Mary Travers...?)

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    1. I didn't think of that, but there is a resemblance . . . .

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  18. Wow! What an incredible story. I was so relieved that after going from bad to worse for those boys, it actually got better

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    1. Based on everything I've seen and read about them, they turned out to be fine men.

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  19. I'm working on a "Whatever happened to" story about a woman who loved my Dad back in WW2 and I only wish I had as much backstory as you have here. Well done.

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  20. Hello!! I'am glad to read the whole content of this blog and am very excited.Thank you.
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  21. I posted about them last year on my A-Z challenge. Very interesting story and sad for them. I don't know if their mom was innocent or not, must have been very hard for such young children to lose their mom and dad.

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