Phantom Spies and Phantom Justice (Bunim & Bannigan Ltd., Oct. 5, 2010) is ninety-three year-old Miriam Moskowitz’s J’accuse, a searing indictment of prosecutors, government bureaucrats and a judge focused more on career advancement than the truth; and of a venal press that sells newspapers with headlines as sensational as they are misleading. Ms. Moskowitz spares no punches. She demonstrates how prosecutors knowingly put lying witnesses on the stand, and judicial ethics were transgressed by a judge who collaborated with the prosecution. The judge, Irving Kaufman, was the same judge who, four months later, presided over the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Roy Cohn and Irving Saypol, Miriam’s prosecutors, performed the same function at the Rosenberg trial; two of the chief witnesses for the prosecution, Harry Gold and Elizabeth Bentley, played the same roles in the Rosenberg trial. Ms. Moskowitz makes a convincing case that her trial was a kind of rehearsal for that of the Rosenbergs, a testing of the believability of Gold and Bentley, and of how far popular prejudices could sway a jury. Her story, therefore, has implications for students of the Rosenberg trial.
Phantom Spies and Phantom Justice is, however, not just an account of an historic trial. It is a memoir of pariahhood, of fellow prisoners in New York City’s Women’s House of Detention and Alderson Federal Penitentiary, of a young woman reestablishing human connections. And in painstakingly following the later careers of her tormentors, Ms. Moskowitz has endowed the work with a fabulous dimension.
Miriam Moskowitz was born in Bayonne, NJ, on June 10, 1916. The eldest of four children, she attended local schools and worked as a clerk for the Immigration & Naturalization Service. After graduating from City College of New York (now City University of New York) in 1942 with a degree in Education, Moskowitz worked as a clerk for the Social Securities Board and the War Manpower Commission. She later worked as a secretary at A. Brothman & Associates.
During the McCarthy Era in the 1950s, Moskowitz was wrongfully convicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice and sentenced to two years in prison at the Federal Penitentiary in Alderson, WV.
After her release, she worked as a public relations manager for several companies before becoming a public school teacher in 1970. Moskowitz spent her vacations backpacking through Europe and other parts of the world. After 14 years as a school teacher, she retired in 1984 and began devoting time to her favorite instrument, the viola. Moskowitz performed in quartets, chamber groups, and even sometimes professionally. Never married, Moskowitz has a subscription to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra where she boasts the best seats in the house, just feet from the viola section. In fact, she is so close she can almost read the sheet music on the viola players’ stands! In her spare time, Moskowitz volunteers at a local hospital and spends time with her nieces and nephews – two of whom are musicians.
Stirring and insightful, the book offers an insider’s understanding of the McCarthy area and what Senator McCarthy did to families as he led his search for American traitors. Thought I had heard about some of these trials, this was the first glimpse at what was really going on in those times and in specific this one person’s story.
The author was so open and honest in her story, it was like a breath of fresh air in regards to the amount of information that was shared. Also, the story provides an all open-access pass to the era and what happened during and after the trial and wrongful conviction of the author.
If you are interested in history, or in general in the McCarthyism Era, this book will give you a completely different look at what was really going on.