Fiction and fact intersected dramatically when the real-life sons of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg made a rare joint public appearance for a screening and discussion of “Daniel,” a movie inspired by their parents’ infamous trial on conspiracy to commit espionage charges.
During their 1951 trial, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Jewish New Yorkers and Communists, were charged with leaking secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during World War II. They were convicted and became the first and only American civilians to be executed for espionage conspiracy. The trial is often cited as a blemish on American legal history and an example of what hysteria (in this case, the Red Scare) can compel a country to do unjustly.
The Rosenbergs left behind two children, Robert and Michael, who were 6 and 10 years old, respectively, at the time their parents died in the electric chair, in 1953. They were later adopted by Anne and Abel Meeropol, and both boys took Meeropol as a surname.
Though “Daniel,” the 1983 film by Sidney Lumet, is a work of fiction and is based on E.L. Doctorow’s novel, “The Book of Daniel,” it follows the same basic premise as the Rosenberg trial.
Robert Meeropol had seen the movie twice before, but said he still found himself agitated by it during a communal viewing on October 15 that was sponsored by Fordham University Law School’s Forum on Law, Culture & Society.
“It was harder to watch than I thought it would be. The longer I watched, the madder I got,” Meeropol said in the post-screening discussion. His anger, he surmised, came from “the feeling that an entire generation of people seeing this film are going to think this is who we are.”
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