Remarks by professor Jose Altschuler, a Cuban electrical engineer at the Havana, Cuba memorial to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, June 19, 2018. Though retired, Altschuler remains dedicated to the history of science and technology, about which he has written several books.
Thanks to Karen Wald who shared this information which came from the speaker himself. It’s been reformatted from PDF for easier reading on the web. None of his words have been changed.
From: Jose Altshuler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, Jul 15, 2018 at 5:22 PM
Subject: Re: ANNIVERSARY
Invited by the Cuban Institute for Peoples’ Friendship and the Cuban Movement for Peace and Peoples’ Sovereignty, we are gathering here today to pay tribute to the exemplary verticality and courage with which the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg couple faced their electric chair execution on June 19, 1953 -exactly 65 years ago, victims of a politically motivated sentence during the Cold War and the American “witch hunt” times.
There is really no room for a different interpretation since on the preceding June 2, they had flatly rejected the official offer of saving their lives in exchange for “confession” and “full cooperation”. “If we are executed shame will fall on the United States Government” -they said at the time. Add to this the offer which was previously made to Ethel that her life would be spared if she agreed to certain requirements, a proposal that she rejected angrily, calling it a “devilish scheme.”
While the execution was taking place inside Sing Sing prison, hate demonstrators outside carried placards with the inscription “Death to the communist rats!” -Jean-Paul Sartre described the show as a “legal lynching that covered with blood the whole country.” Countless appeals and clemency requests coming from all around the world had been rejected, including those by the great Albert Einstein and the Vatican.
At the time, President Eisenhower declared that the executions were a “serious matter. And even more serious -he added –if one thinks of the millions of dead whose death can be directly blamed to what these spies did.”
It is quite paradoxical that this was said by the president of the only country in the world that had dropped atomic bombs, killing tens of thousands of civilians of a practically defeated enemy country, with no other purpose than trying to frighten a victorious allied power, according to knowledgeable analysts.
But there is much more to this. Which will be seen in the following reproduction of four brief paragraphs from an article by William J. Broad published in the United States on 12 November 2007, which I downloaded from the web not too long ago.
This is what they say:
On Nov. 2, the Kremlin startled Western scholars by announcing that President Vladimir V. Putin had posthumously given the highest Russian award to a Soviet agent who penetrated the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.
The announcement hailed Dr. [George] Koval [who died in 2006, aged 93] as “the only Soviet intelligence officer” to infiltrate the project’s secret plans, saying his work “helped speed up considerably the time it took the Soviet Union to develop an atomic bomb of its own.”
Washington has known about Dr. Koval’s spying since he fled the United States shortly after the war but kept it secret.
“It would have been highly embarrassing for the U.S. government to have had this divulged,” said Robert S. Norris, author of […] a biography of the project’s military leader.
I guess it is not necessary to insist on the subject to clearly show to what extent the Rosenbergs were demonized for an essentially political purpose.
Still, the cruelty to which they were subjected could be explained more precisely by taking into account the fact that their case was aired at the height of the Cold War, in full development of the McCarthy “witch hunt” during the Korean war -though the alleged facts under trial had taken place during the Second World War, when the Soviet Union was an ally of the Western powers. It was for this reason that, on March 2, 1950, the German scientist Klaus Fuchs, strongly involved in the transfer of information to the Soviets, was sanctioned in England only to 14 years in prison -the maximum penalty for passing military secrets to a friendly country. He was granted full reprieve after serving 9 years and 4 months.
On the subject just mentioned, I believe it is very illustrative to recall the following quite exceptional testimony that a participant in the atom bomb project from the British side, Professor Joseph Rotblat, published in the August 1985 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Here is what he says:
In March 1944 I experienced a disagreeable shock […]
During [a conversation at the home of Prof. Chadwick, the head of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves,]said that, of course, the real purpose in making the bomb was to subdue the Soviets […] Although I had no illusions about the Stalin regime […] I felt deeply the sense of betrayal of an ally […] when thousands of Russians were dying every day on the Eastern Front, tying down the Germans and giving the Allies time to prepare for the landing on the continent of Europe. […] Until then I had thought that our work was to prevent a Nazi victory, and now I was told that the weapon we were preparing was intended for use against the people who were making extreme sacrifices for that very aim.
Shocked by such a terrible reality and already knowing at the time that Germany did not have any possibility of manufacturing the bomb, early in 1945 Rotblat managed to leave the Manhattan Project and return to Great Britain. Since then he dedicated his life to the struggle for a peaceful world and the elimination of nuclear weapons, for which he was awarded in 1995 the Nobel Prize for Peace.
“It would […] be wrong and imprudent to entrust [to others] the secret knowledge or experience of the atomic bomb, which the United States, Great Britain and Canada now share”— declared Winston Churchill in the famous speech which he delivered in Fulton, Missouri, barely seven months after the atomic bombing of Japan.
That was exactly opposite to the very serious warning personally given to Prime Minister Churchill and to President Roosevelt in 1944 by the world respected Physics Nobel prize, Niels Bohr, that hiding the work on the atom bomb from its wartime ally, the Soviet Union, would necessarily provoke mistrust and give rise to an extremely dangerous nuclear arms race. Needless to say, this became very soon a sad fact of life.
In 1946, the year after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, President Truman gave the USSR an ultimatum to evacuate a province of Iran, or else have the United States drop atomic bombs on the Soviet Union itself. Three years later the Soviets detonated their first nuclear device, which they were forced to develop while their country was still in ruins from the Second World War that had cost them more than 20 million lives. In 1953 president Eisenhower threatened North Korea and China with the use of nuclear weapons. It was in this context that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the United States 65 years ago, on a day like today. Some five weeks later, a military bulwark of the pro imperialist tyranny then in power in this country was attacked by a group of Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. At the court that tried him and his surviving comrades, he took up his own defense and that of his ideals of social justice. “It doesn’t matter if you condemn me; history will absolve me”, he concluded. “We will be vindicated by history”, the Rosenberg’s had said.
The very fact that we are now gathered around this memorial bears witness to the prophetic character of Fidel’s words, so similar to those of the Rosenbergs. Let us hope that sooner than later memorials of this kind may find their place in other places, where Cubans and Americans can get together in peace, mutual respect, and solidarity, as we are here today.
Thank you very much.