INVITATION TO AN INQUEST by Walter and Miriam Schneir


Email this review


The Schneirs spent five years researching this book about the Rosenberg spy trial and executions. They themselves started with the big question: Were the Rosenbergs guilty? This long book leaves the question smack in the lap of the reader. It is an unsettling trip through trial records, personal interviews, newspaper stories and government press releases. The inconsistencies of the testimony against the Rosenbergs, the weight placed on evidence given by Elizabeth Bentley, who made a career of accusing and then forgetting accusations, and the odd role of Herbert Gold, the self-confessed Rosenberg-to-Greenglass courier raise even more uncomfortable questions. Perhaps the greatest service the Schneir book renders is the way the facts are marshalled. The Rosenberg trial is set in the context of the fearful '50's and contrasted to the Oppenheimer inquiries, the Fuchs conviction and the McCarthy bandwagon witch hunts. It is this that makes the book more valuable than the isolated examination offered by Jonathan Root in The Betrayers (1963, p. 398). That this was a political trial and issue seldom gets any debate. It is the fact that this may have been a hasty political execution that roused international scorn which will continue to haunt the American conscience. The Schneirs write well and manage their necessary quotations and citations with unobtrusive skill. A continuing, concerned readership is indicated.

Publisher: Doubleday