David Greenglass, whose testimony against his sister Ethel Rosenberg led to her death sentence for espionage in 1953, died July 1 at the age of 92. The New York Times learned of his death recently after calling the nursing home where he lived.
A Communist, Greenglass was assigned to the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in 1944 while an Army sergeant. He was already a Soviet spy, and while there, stole nuclear intelligence. After being arrested in 1950, Greenglass admitted to passing secrets to his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg. There was the question of whether it was Ethel or Greenglass' wife, Ruth, who had typed the notes that were sent to the Soviets. Greenglass learned that Ruth had told FBI agents that Ethel was the typist, and Greenglass went along with the story and testified against his sister and brother-in-law. The Rosenbergs never named names, and after being found guilty were executed in 1953.
Ruth was never prosecuted, and Greenglass served almost 10 years in prison. Upon his release, he changed his name. Decades later, a New York Times journalist tracked him down, and he admitted to not really knowing whether or not Ethel had typed the notes. "I don't remember that at all," he said. "I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don't remember." He didn't regret what he did, though, saying: "My wife is more important to me than my sister. Or my mother or my father, OK? And she was the mother of my children."
Ruth died in 2008. Greenglass is survived by a son and daughter.