Rosenberg pickets end White House watch

June 20, 1953

WASHINGTON, June 20, 1953 (UP) -- The cheerless, weeping people who wanted the Rosenbergs kept alive were gone from the White House sidewalks today. -- President Eisenhower, sure that the atom spies received "fullest" justice, turned to other problems.

If the emotionalism that surged around the fence of the Executive Mansion for nearly a week affected the President, he showed no signs of it as he tackled such cold, tough issues as the troubled truce negotiations in Korea and Russian moves in East Germany.

The President was with his family in their quarters of the White House last night when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg went to the electric chair for giving atomic secrets to Russia.

A telephone was handy in case Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. wanted to reach him at the last minute.

Until the end, the Justice Department hoped the Rosenbergs would talk. Officials believed they had secrets important to the nation's security. In return for these, the President was ready to spare their lives.

During the last hours of the Rosenbergs, Eisenhower was the chief target of their supporters -- the glum, sign-bearing pickets and Defense Attorney Emanuel Bloch, who alternately denounced the President and pleaded to be heard by him.

As the Rosenbergs were electrocuted, 400 pickets plodded, footsore and dejected before the White House. Police were afraid the toughs among the 7,000 persons gathered in a park across Pennsylvania Ave. might rush the line.

Two blocks from the White House, Bloch slumped unhappily in his hotel room and in an angry outburst shouted "American democracy died with the Rosenbergs."

From the jam of automobiles inching along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House, radios blared the flash that the Rosenbergs were dead.

The crowd in Lafayette Park broke into cheers and shouted "Back to Russia, you bums" at the pickets.

Then by pre-arranged signal, the pickets halted, thrust their signs up toward the White House in a last defiant gesture and stood with bowed heads while a woman read a statement.

She was Helen Sobell, wife of Morton Sobell, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in the atom spy plot for which the Rosenbergs died. Her face and voice were sullen and hateful. Her dark eyes glinted with emotion as she summoned the forces of "truth" to break silence so the Rosenbergs' two children "may some day reap the reward of vindication."

A platinum blond in a skin tight black dress with a picket sign in one hand and a gold-headed cane in the other, strode arrogantly by a policeman and threw her sign at the base of a tree. Other pickets followed suit and by 9 o'clock -- 17 minutes after the death flash -- the pile of signs around the tree was several feet high.

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