Robert Meeropol was six years old when his parents Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage in 1953. Though this was certainly a significant event in his life, it was not the single defining moment as one might assume. It is also not the central theme of his memoir, though it does play a strong supporting role. In fact, Meeropol has only vague memories of his parents. What he does remember are years spent in orphanages and foster homes before he and his brother were adopted by Abel and Anne Meeropol. While the event did cause some childhood trauma, he reflects that "I can't help feeling that I gained as much as I lost during those years." An Execution in the Family
is hardly the work of a bitter man fuming at the establishment for the loss of his parents. Rather, it is the story of a thoughtful person and his struggle to find his purpose in the world. Reared on left-wing politics and social activism, he knew he wanted to help others, but he was unsure of the route to take, and his writes of his confusion and troubles with engaging frankness.
Part of his restlessness stemmed from his inability to come to terms with his past. Up into his early twenties, he never revealed who his biological parents were, even to his closest friends. Ultimately, however, events forced him to acknowledge his lineage and confront the facts, plunging him into his own in-depth investigation of the Rosenbergs' case. Eventually he was able to prove publicly that his parents' trial had been unfair and that critical testimony against them had been tainted. He also had to acknowledge that his parents' names would never be completely cleared. The process proved rewarding in many ways, notably because it served to reveal a greater purpose for him: In 1990 Meeropol started the Rosenberg Fund for Children to support children of political prisoners, beginning his life as an activist and offering him an opportunity to honor both his biological and adoptive parents in the process. "My parents resistance inspired a movement. That inspiration survived their execution," he writes. With this memoir, Meeropol hopes in turn to inspire others. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs. His story, which is a story of postwar America, is compelling. He chronicles with vision and clarity his personal and political journeys and the lengthy battle to uncover the truth about his parents' case. "For as long as I could remember we'd suffered whatever was said about our parents in silence. We had never had the opportunity or the emotional freedom to give voice to our opinions about our parents' trial and execution." When Meeropol and his brother did, in the 1970s, the floodgates opened-and over the years, the case's full horror was exposed. The Rosenbergs were charged with "conspiracy to commit espionage," not with selling atomic secrets. According to Meeropol, the person who confessed to that crime, Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, was pressured to reveal co-conspirators in exchange for his wife's freedom. And he succumbed-mouthing the words an FBI agent later testified he supplied. New documents reveal the Rosenbergs were executed for a crime the government knew they did not commit. Their sons have battled valiantly to clear their names and to lead productive lives, and Meeropol's captivating memoir deserves a spot on American history bookshelves.
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