THE BETRAYERS by Jonathan Root


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The Betrayers is probably the most widely comprehensive study available about the executed conspirators, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Their characters and their trial are studied in depth and it is to the author's credit that he manages to present his material with such a teetering sense of guilt or innocence that the reader's sympathy remains uncommitted until the last chapter. In fact, one often thinks quite differently from the author, and you know he knows you think you're thinking for yourself. The Rosenbergs were arrested in the early '50's on the strength of Ethel's brother's confession that he transmitted the vital secret of the Nagasaki A-bomb to Julius, who passed it on to the Russians. The FBI whipped up a flimsy case against them, they were given a wildly Kafkaesque trial, convicted, and executed. Unfortunately, they were tried just following the national hysteria of the McCarthy rampage, the Hiss trials and Herbert Philbrick's revelations. The Rosenbergs didn't stand a chance, although author Root details that they got a fairer trial than some liberals care to remember. He also records the failures of the trial, but seems satisfied justice was done. The enormous irony of the Rosenbergs' ecution is that it happened over such a comic-strip fiction as the Vital Implosion Lens Secret of the Atom Bomb, which was just nonsense when Ethel's brother drew a picture of it in court. A lens there may have been, but it wasn't this dotty device. Very respectable work, and cuts deep.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1963
Publisher: oward-McCann