Miriam Moskowitz, 98, Fights to Clear Her Name of McCarthy-Era Charges

Miriam Moskowitz, 98, Tries to Clear Her Name
Miriam Moskowitz talks to the media after a status conference in her case outside the Manhattan Federal Court building in the Manhattan borough of New York August 25, 2014. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

On November 28, 1950, at the height of the Red Scare, Miriam Moskowitz was found guilty of conspiracy to lie to a grand jury in the run-up to the atomic spying case that would end in the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Now, at 98, Moskowitz is trying to clear her name in court. Reuters reports an initial federal court hearing convened Monday in New York to determine how to proceed with her case.

“I just want to end my life with a clear name,” Moskowitz told the New York Post earlier this month.

The New Jersey woman was sentenced to two years in prison following her charge, several months of which she spent with Ethel Rosenberg in the Women’s House of Detention, a prison which once stood in the middle of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, where a garden sits now. Moskowitz told the New Yorker that she spent those days chatting with Rosenberg about music or Rosenberg’s children.

“We floated free then for those few moments in a more benevolent world—until a guard would yell across to us as we finished the last of our coffee, ‘Hey, you two! You’re not in the Waldorf, ya know!’” Rosenberg was later executed along with her husband Julius. While Soviet cables later appeared to suggest that Julius Rosenberg may indeed have been a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement remains unclear.

Now, over 60 years later, Moskowitz says she has evidence of her own innocence. Documents released in 2008 show that Harry Gold, the government witness against her, told the FBI repeatedly that Moskowitz was unaware of the plans of others to lie to the grand jury, but that he changed his tune once he was threatened him with the death penalty, according to Moskowitz’s lawyer.

Moskowitz published a memoir in 2010, detailing her conviction and life afterwards. A New Yorker item on the memoir notes the book’s concluding scene: In 1992, Moskowitz stood outside the funeral of Irving Kaufman, the judge who presided over her trial. As his casket is rolled outside, Moskowitz silently curses him. “I damn you for having lusted for prestige and for having fed your obscene ambitions at my expense.”

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