PSB files, lot 62 D 333, PSB D–34, “Miscellaneous Correspondence”

Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (Phillips) to the Under Secretary of State (Bruce)1

  • Subject:
  • Propaganda Implications of the Slansky Trial and the Rosenberg Case.2

Recent reports from European posts suggest a revival of interest in the Rosenberg case on the part of the Communist press and various left-wing and front organizations. This may be partly explained by the standard Communist policy of distorting and exploiting U.S. legal judgments against Communists and members of racial minorities, but it is probably related more directly to the intense European reaction to the Slansky trial and its anti-Semitic implications, which have resulted in a decisive propaganda setback for the Communists, save possibly in the Arab States.

Judging from the limited reports available at the present time, it can be assumed that current agitation on behalf of the Rosenbergs is largely the work of front organizations and probably does not represent any significant doubt on the part of the non-Communist public regarding the integrity of U.S. action in the case. The positive effect, if any, of the Rosenberg campaign has been within Communist circles and secondarily, upon groups or individuals who do not believe in capital punishment.

So far, according to the best reports available, some two thousand protests have been received to date, principally by our missions in London and Paris, principally from recognizable Communist sources regarding the Rosenberg case, an insignificant number compared to, say the Willie McGee case.

With regard to the Rosenberg case, full documentation and editorial comment has been carried by our media. More recently (November 1952), it was felt desirable to supply affected posts with rebuttal material in the form of a review, including legal documentation and comment, in USIS Special Feature 130 of November 17, and the Wireless Bulletin 274 of November 18. In response to the recent renewal of Communist propaganda on the Rosenbergs, the findings of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and of the American Civil Liberties Union, were provided to missions as source material for effective local handling. Such material has also been the basis for Voice of America output, as well as informal [Page 1641] briefing, both here and abroad, of responsible representatives of the foreign press.

With regard to the Slansky case, our own media output and guidances stressed, where appropriate, the anti-Zionist angle, and gave full play to the Communist trial technique as contrasted with the democratic processes of law. No attempt was made to defend those on trial, but full emphasis was given to the fact that they were being tried on trumped-up charges. The Slansky trial has been the subject of some forty VOA scripts tailored for regional consumption. International press coverage of the Slansky trial, basically in support of our views, has been exceptionally good.

There is little doubt that present Communist agitation of the Rosenberg case is a deliberate diversionary tactic whose principal aim is to divert attention from the Slansky trial. It is safe to say that this attempt has been unsuccessful and has little effect save within Communist circles.

  1. Drafted by Coulter D. Huyler of P.
  2. For documentation on the trial of Rudolph Slansky in Czechoslovakia, see volume viii. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had been convicted of atomic espionage in January 1951 and had been incarcerated while the verdict was being appealed.