The Other Rosenbergs
Kaplan was fired in 1953 and testified a week later before the Senate subcommittee, during which he was questioned by chief counsel Roy Cohn about his relationship to the other Louis Kaplan. Kaplan, whose father had spent his career fighting communist infiltration into the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, was cleared a week later. To avoid further confusion, he started using his middle name. “I arrived at Fort Monmouth as Louis Kaplan and left Louis Leo Kaplan. I’ve been Leo ever since.”
Another man confused with Louis Kaplan was Jacob Kaplan, an assistant branch chief in the Countermeasures Branch at Camp Evans. During Jacob Kaplan’s testimony before the Senate subcommittee on October 30, 1953, Roy Cohn asked: “You have never been known as Louie Kaplan?” to which Jacob Kaplan replied “No,” and Cohn retorted, “Maybe they are suspending everyone with the name Kaplan.”
The pursuit of scientists with names such as Rosenberg and Kaplan was ironic since so many of those names were American inventions. “Rosenberg wasn’t even our real name,” says Sidney Rosenberg. “When my father came to Ellis Island he either changed it or someone else did. It was Gorcyzski. Some people with this name changed it to Goren or to Green. When I told the FBI investigators this, they interviewed Mr. Green who ran the cafeteria.”
Eva and Milton’s youngest daughter, Karen Rosenberg, tells a similar story: “After all this, of course, Rosenberg is not really our name. My grandfather Samuel Rosenberg bought somebody else’s papers in the old country.” The coincidence, she says, is that “our name was Kaplowitz, that is, we were Kaplans.”
Jews, by any name, were not particularly welcome in Monmouth County, New Jersey, before World War II. Located about 60 miles south of New York City, the county was rural but for the string of resort towns along the Atlantic Ocean. Some Jewish families resided in these shore communities despite Ku Klux Klan activities in the 1920s and German-American Bund rallies in the 1930s. As late as 1948, a 12-foot cross was burned on the newly purchased home of Leroy Hutton, described in The New York Post as a “Bronx Negro,” who was an engineer at a Fort Monmouth laboratory.
When World War II broke out, the county’s transformation to a New York City suburb began, thanks in part to Fort Monmouth, which ballooned from 150 to 14,000 employees. To fill new positions in military laboratories, the government hired Jews and blacks, drawn mostly from New York City. Most were young Jewish scientists who had difficulty finding jobs in their field. “At the onset of World War II, most private laboratories like Bell Labs didn’t hire Jews or had quotas,” says Jean Klerman, a former county librarian and a board member of the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County. “All the bright scientists came.”
The large wave of Jews fanned anti-Semitism. One focal point was Washington Village. Still standing today, the 64-unit apartment project was constructed in 1943 by the federal government for low-income residents, but due to the World War II housing shortage, was opened to Signal Corps employees. A newspaper report from the time says that half of Washington Village’s apartments were occupied by Jewish families.
Locals, including returning veterans, were incensed that federal employees who earned more than the income guidelines were allowed to settle in Washington Village. Their furor was whipped up by Conde McGinley, the publisher of a widely distributed local anti-communist and anti-Semitic newspaper called Think. McGinley’s paper charged that Washington Village and its tenants’ association were “Communistic and Jewish,” according to a January 8, 1951, article in The New York Post. (McGinley became nationally known in 1950 for his unsuccessful fight to derail the nomination of Anna Rosenberg, a New York attorney whom President Truman had nominated for Assistant Secretary of Defense and whose husband was named Julius Rosenberg, no relation to the spy.)