The Other Rosenbergs
“I swear by all that is holy that it is incorrect,” Milton Rosenberg answered when asked if he had ever been in an apartment together with Sidney Rosenberg and Louis Kaplan. He explained that he had been inside the Kaplans’ apartment only once, after their seven-year-old son Howard had thrown a rock at the Rosenberg family’s cream-colored Mercury on October 21, 1948, shattering the windshield. He had gone to the boy’s home to ask his father to pay for the damage but Kaplan, he said, had refused. Rosenberg also recalled being present at a 1946 party honoring Kaplan, a co-recipient of one of the Standards Agency’s highest civilian awards.
When asked, Milton Rosenberg denied he was related to Julius Rosenberg, was a communist or a member of any communist-related organization. He belonged to only two groups: B’nai B’rith Shore Lodge 1685 and the Institute of Radio Engineers. “Communism is atheism and atheism and Orthodox religion, or any religion, just don’t mix,” he testified. He was also questioned about his presence at a NAACP rally at which communists were said to have been in attendance.
After coworkers, friends and family members who had come as character witnesses spoke on his behalf, the informant was called to testify. He was Newell C. Jardine, age 52, the maintenance man in Washington Village between October 1944 and October 1945 until he had been hired as a plumber at Fort Monmouth and become a tenant of Washington Village. Jardine had lived in the apartment next door to Sidney Rosenberg and his family. “We hardly knew him,” recalls Eva Rosenberg.
The examiner asked Jardine if it was true that he had told the FBI that, “While walking your dog at 11 p.m. in the evening you observed Louis Kaplan [and] Milton Rosenberg, through an open window of the apartment of Sidney Rosenberg.” Jardine replied: “No, I can’t say that I did.” Although he had retracted his accusation, the examiner and board members questioned him for a prolonged period, before then calling Eva Rosenberg to testify.
She was told that the FBI had information that showed she might be connected to the Communist Party, noting that in 1942 a woman with the same name had signed a Communist Party nominating petition in New York. Eva Rosenberg testified that that was not her and that she had not lived in New York in 1942, but with her husband in New Jersey. “I didn’t know they had an FBI file on me until it came out in the trial,” says Rosenberg, who was terrified that the board would learn that her father and aunts were socialists. “They kept thinking I was 34—I was 30—and kept calling me Ethel.”
Sidney Rosenberg’s hearing followed Milton Rosenberg’s. But the second Rosenberg was less fortunate: Newell Jardine did not retract his previous statement and insisted that he had seen Louis Kaplan in Sidney Rosenberg’s apartment. “They [were] around the table in the kitchen and they were over the table,” said Jardine when asked for a description of what he had seen. “I don’t know what was on the table. They may have been studying for school.” Jardine said he knew of Kaplan’s communist sympathies because his daughter, who had worked as a babysitter for the Kaplans, said she had seen communist literature in their apartment.
Jardine also testified that the FBI had come to his home in 1948 and 1949 several times to inquire about Louis Kaplan’s acquaintances. While he had observed Louis Kaplan in Sidney Rosenberg’s apartment over a several-year period, he hadn’t reported it because investigators hadn’t specifically asked about Sidney Rosenberg until 1950.