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The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case Paperback – May 13, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A fresh and fast-paced study of one of the most important crimes of the twentieth century.”—The Washington Post

“[Sam Roberts] is a deft writer able to weave science, history, and criminal investigation into an absorbing narrative that at times reads like a spy thriller—even if you do know how the story ends.”—The Boston Globe

“An absorbing account of the Rosenberg atomic spy drama seen through the eyes of [David] Greenglass . . . whose testimony helped send his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, and her husband, Julius, to the electric chair in 1953.”
The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

Fifty years after their execution in June 1953 for conspiring to steal atomic secrets, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg remain the subjects of great emotional debate and acrimony. The man whose testimony almost single-handedly convicted them was Ethel Rosenberg?s own brother, David Greenglass. Though the Rosenbergs were executed, Greenglass served a mere ten years in prison, after which, with a new name, he disappeared. But journalist Sam Roberts found Greenglass, and then managed to convince him to talk about everything that had happened.
So here at last is the mesmerizing inside story of the Rosenberg case: What were their lives like growing up on the Lower East Side? How was David Greenglass enlisted in a plot to hand over to the Soviets our greatest national secret? And how, finally, did the whole thing unravel? Even beyond that, The Brother reveals how David Greenglass perjured himself in testifying about his sister and her husband?testimony that virtually strapped them into the electric chair.
The Brother is a great narrative, far more mesmerizing than anything else written on the subject. It is a story of espionage. It is the story of a trial. And, most tragically, it is the story of a family.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375761241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375761249
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,320,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I got more out of this book than I thought I would. Mr. Roberts does a very good job of telling the story of David Greenglass, his wife Ruth, and his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were executed the year before I was born and it is a sad story I have heard various versions of throughout my life. Depending on your political leanings it became a kind of vision test. What you saw in it revealed a lot about how you saw the world and what you believed about the Cold War.
Mr. Roberts gives a lot of background material to provide context and to help modern-day readers capture more of the atmosphere of the time. One example that affected me was the link many made between the onset of the Korean War with Stalin having atomic weapons sooner than he would have without Fuchs, Greenglass, and the Rosenbergs. (Ted Hall played a significant role as well, but no one outside the Intelligence community knew about him until the 1990s.)
The author provides unequivocal evidence of Julius acting as an agent and spy for the Soviet Union. He also has no doubt that Ethel was aware of and approved of her husband aiding the USSR. They were naively supporting an ideal politics that did not exist. Julius also seemed to enjoy the importance he felt he attained by doing this work. He also seems to have provided other technologies to the Soviet Union including a proximity fuse.
But Roberts expresses grave concern over even charging Ethel and provides evidence that she was being used as a lever on her husband. Mr. Roberts seems to doubt that there was enough real evidence to even indict Ethel let alone convict and execute her (actual guilt being a different issue).
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Format: Paperback
.....but that doesn't change the truth of what he said. A virtual infinity of books have been written about the Rosenberg case, most by people having an agenda, one way or the other; this is one of the best, and most important...further, Sam Roberts does not have an agenda. I was only 6 when the Rosenbergs went to the chair, but I remember it well. I have never doubted their guilt; I have little doubt that my Dad would have pulled the switch. Numerous authors have proclaimed the Rosenbergs innocent victims of a government frame-up; these are often Communists, or at least leftists, who base their assertions on the belief that the principle prosecution witnesses, David and Ruth Greenglass, were lowlifes.

This fine book is the story of David Greenglass, brother of Ethel Rosenberg, atomic spy, soldier turned traitor, a man who turned government witness and "sent his sister to the chair". Many know the basic story...Ethel and David grew up in a poor family, and embraced Communism while young. Ethel married fellow Communist Julius Rosenberg, who strongly desired to aid the Soviet Union. During WWII, David was drafted into the Army, and worked in the machine shop at Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was being developed...Julius found out about David's assignment, and recruited him to steal secrets for Russia...David passed the information to spy courier Harry Gold...after the war, the house of cards eventually fell...scientist Klaus Fuchs was caught...that led to Harry Gold...........

When arrested in 1950, David and his wife Ruth gave up Julius and Ethel; there was certainly no desire to "send them to the chair". They figured that the Rosenbergs would confess, as others had done, and the chain would go on.
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Format: Paperback
Sam Roberts found David Greenglass and persuaded him to talk for this very readable 500 page book. It tells of their family histories. How did David Greenglass get assigned to Los Alamos (p.70)? Perhaps due to his talents? He was cleared by Army and FBI investigators (p.71). Soviet atom bomb development began in 1939, they deduced American research in 1940 (p.80). Julius Rosenberg became involved with Soviet espionage, and a recruiter of people who could provide "technical information". The crime is committed when the message is relayed (p.92). Life in Oak Ridge or Los Alamos is likened to a socialist paradise where the government provides for everyone; but not all enjoy Army life (pp.100-1). None suspected that DG's insatiable curiosity was to gather information for a foreign government (p.104). Winston Churchill's scientists asked for dynamite lenses (p.107). How to steal a proximity fuse? Get a defective reject then replace the broken parts with working parts (p.109).
With the war over, DG was no longer interested in helping the Soviets (p.147). The Soviet atomic research resumed in 1943 (p.182), their first atomic test occurred in 1949. This affected the political outlook in Washington (p.183). When they deciphered a message on gaseous diffusion in refining uranium, this led to its author and prime suspect - Klaus Fuchs (p.188). Another deciphered message said a spy at Los Alamos went on vacation in Jan 1945 (p.197); 100 suspects were turned up. The two prime suspects were Luis Alvarez and Edward Teller - the best friend of Klaus Fuchs.
DG's confession is on page 242. He hired O. John Rogge and cooperated with the FBI; he could not testify against his wife (p.261). Greenglass and Gold were interviewed together to harmonize their stories (p.278).
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