|"Save the Rosenbergs" rally in France|
As Julius Rosenberg said: "This death sentence is not surprising. It had to be. There had to be a Rosenberg case, because there had to be an intensification of the hysteria in America to make the Korean War acceptable to the American people. There had to be hysteria and a fear sent through America in order to get increased war budgets. And there had to be a dagger thrust in the heart of the left to tell them that you are no longer gonna get five years for a Smith Act prosecution or one year for contempt of court, but we're gonna kill ya!"
In short, an example had to be made.
It is also not a coincidence, as many recognized at the time, that those who the US state chose to make this example of were Jews. In essence the Rosenbergs were accused of placing an international loyalty -- to the working class and the socialist camp which represented it -- above loyalty to the nation. This clearly echoes classic tropes of Jewish disloyalty repeated by anti-semites from Churchill to Henry Ford to Hitler. But the Rosenbergs' Jewishness has a second significance. During the postwar era Jews and other 'ethnic' Europeans were more than ever being offered the carrot --occupational and educational advancement, suburban prosperity -- in exchange for conformity to the institutions of US society, for becoming good white Americans.
The execution of these two Jewish communists served as a message, as the execution of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti had, that for those who refused and held onto such un-American notions as class struggle, revolution and proletarian internationalism, there remained the stick.