A Manhattan federal judge on Tuesday ordered the unsealing of 1950 grand jury testimony of David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg and long a controversial figure in the notorious atomic spying case.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that with Greenglass now deceased, historical interest in his testimony -- and answering lingering questions about whether he lied about his sister to protect his wife -- outweighed opposition from his family.

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"The requested records are critical pieces of an important moment in our nation's history," Hellerstein wrote. "The time for the public to guess what they contain should end."

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Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were charged with spying for the Soviet Union and executed in 1953. Hellerstein acted on a petition by a coalition of historical groups, historians and journalists.