Moscow soiree marks birth centenary of Soviet writer-cum-spy

A soiree has been held in Moscow to mark the birth centenary of Soviet author Semyon Rostovsky, alias Ernst Henry. A new edition of two of his best-known literary works - "Europe Under Hitler?" and "Hitler vs. the USSR" - was presented to the attendees by his son, Mikhail.

"The 20th century was rich in extraordinary biographies and fates, and one of the most fantastic life stories was that of the boy born in Vitebsk in 1904," journalist Henrich Borovik said as he addressed the gathering. "A great deal of rumors circulated about him: Is he or is he not a spy? I only know that if he really was a spy, he spied against fascism, in the broadest sense of the term."

As he was preparing a landing in the UK, Adolf Hitler drew up a list of those liable for liquidation. Among those blacklisted were Winston Churchill and Ernst Henry, but Hitler was unable to do anything to Henry, Borovik said.

After World War II, Henry was charged with espionage in favor of the German and the Britons. The suspicions arose from the fact that he was surprisingly well informed about Hitler's schemes and knew such particulars as the schedule of attacks and their intended targets. He was even implicated as an architect of Hitler's war strategy. The legal proceedings lasted one year, only to end up in the defendant's acquittal of all charges.

Ernst Henry spent the early 1930's serving as a Comintern agent. In that period, he wrote many an essay warning of the looming danger of Nazism. Later on, he joined the German Communist Party and began to contribute to the newspaper Rote Fahne.

Rostovsky's penname is said to have been suggested, according to different theories, either by his wife or Herbert Wells' secretary. He used that name for the 1934 publication of the book "Europe Under Hitler?" This skillfully written anti-fascist essay was translated into many foreign languages. In his subsequent book "Hitler vs. the USSR," he denounced the long-term plans of Hitler's military aggression.

Rostovsky left Germany for Switzerland, then moved on to France, and eventually settled in the UK, taking up a job with the Russian Embassy in London.

The man had to conceal his real name in Western Europe, where he was notoriously known as a German Communist Party activist who had orchestrated an armed uprising of 1920 and spent some time in custody for sedition and subversion.

Rostovsky was one of the brightest and most successful Soviet secret agents to serve in Germany and the United Kingdom.

In "Hitler vs. the USSR," he described with remarkable precision Hitler's forthcoming invasion of the Soviet Union. In the initial days of WWII, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin drew upon the book to foresee future war developments. And Hitler declared the book's author as a personal foe of his. This is just a tiny part of the legend about "Hitler vs. the USSR," effectively used by the anti-Stalin Soviet intelligentsia to substantiate their contention that Stalin was the one to blame for Hitler's going to war with the Soviet Union.

A brilliant journalist and essayist, Rostovsky made no secret about his being a sympathizer of Soviet Russia. He wrote about the imminent clash with Nazism with remarkable simplicity and clarity, leaving few of his readers unconvinced. He wouldn't make anything up, but just tried to analyze real facts. And he knew a lot of things for a fact.

Not all of Rostovsky's predictions came true, bit his book remains a compelling read to this day. Here is what he wrote in conclusion: "Never before has the world been witness to a rout like the one to be suffered by the Hitlerian army..."

"Father was a great patriot, and believed in this country till his last day," Rostovsky's son, Mikhail, pointed out in a RIA interview. "The idea behind the re-edition was not just to mark my father's birth centenary, but also to bring his name back to the public as, in my opinion, his is a name worth being remembered."

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