Thursday, July 31, 2008

'Heir to an Execution' Review

***1/2 out of ***** This is a pretty good documentary, directed by the Rosenbergs' blood granddaughter Ivy Meeropol, it covers in more detail the relationship the trial and execution has had on the family, than on the actual trial and evidence. It is clear and objectively shown that indeed it has had an arrant multigenerational effect and most likely will continue with the director's children. However, important in the film was the revelation of information contained in the 1995 opening of classified government documents (The Venona Papers) which pretty much proves Julius' guilt (guilty of passing secrets, but nothing supposedly as serious as atomic info) and exonerates Ethel. This is presented as a surprise in the film, although this information was revealed nearly a decade before the film had been made. We spend half the film getting to this point, whereas the film would've been much more effective and comprehensive if it would've started off at this point. I only say this 'cause the guilt, or the degree of guilt, affects this family's identity, and is highly relevant and a major theme of the documentary. This, and Morton Sobell's incomplete answers to the nature of their guilt (he was their co-defendant!!) made the film seem a little more biased than it had to be. The film also in a way martyrizes them, which is fine, I guess, if they were innocent (of passing atomic info), but a sad and unavoidable manipulation if not. Overall, this is slightly nitpickish on my part and anyone interested in this era of history will not be disappointed.


  1. The NSA decrypts show that Julius Rosenberg had some involvement with atomic espionage. His covername, LIBERAL, occurs in several KGB messages in the same context as ENORMOUS, the covername for the atom bomb project.

    What Julius Rosenberg's connection was isn't clear from the decrypts.

    My guess is that he microfilmed atom bomb data for the Soviets. I doubt that he had technical understanding of the material.

    Data he would have understood was radio, radar, and IFF from his work at Ft. Monmouth. But from the decrypts themselves it isn't possible to know.

    My impression is that he was in charge of pulling together various secret data, getting them microfilmed, and passing the microfilm on to the KGB.

  2. Hey! I am going away for a couple of weeks and will miss your writing! I look forward to reading your posts when I return! :)