By Esther Rapaport
When Vasiliy Antonovich, a writer for the Segodniya newspaper, was assigned to write an exposé about the life of one of the oligarchs of Saint Petersburg, he chose Nikolai Rosenberg. And because the writer was an ardent antisemite, he described “the Jew Rosenberg who rests on piles of gold, together with his Jewish friends who are slowly eating away at the natural resources of Mother Russia” in a very negative light.
He included incriminating photos of huge swaths of land behind the Rosenberg estate, the magnificent gardens at the front of the mansion, two swimming pools, the fully outfitted fitness room, two massive kitchens, and three tremendous banquet rooms that, together, could host up to 2,000 people. He succeeded in photographing Rosenberg’s collection of 200 golden miniatures, his three luxury cars, and even (without them knowing) the four bodyguards who regularly protected the billionaire.
What the journalist didn’t know was that Nikolai Rosenberg wasn’t even Jewish. He was descended from a veteran German family that admired the Communist ideology and, between the two World Wars, settled in the large German community in Russia, near the Volga. True, Rosenberg was a common Jewish name, yet no one understood how the reporter had made such a mistake.
Nikolai Rosenberg filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper for its insulting lies. The paper had to print an apology, admitting that the Rosenberg family had no connection to Jews or their activities, and the writer Antonovich was summarily fired.
“We thank Mr. Nikolai Rosenberg,” Mr. Yedidya Singerevitz, the head of the Adas Yisrael community in Saint Petersburg, said wryly to the media, “for proving to the world that it doesn’t pay to be antisemitic, even when it’s a mistake.” And Nikolai Rosenberg … laughed.
Less than three months later, the unemployed reporter climbed the stairs of his former workplace. The deputy editor scowled. “We won’t hire you back,” he said, not even looking at the visitor’s face. “You got us into a real mess with the Rosenberg family, so take your two feet and get out of here, you understand?”
“Not before you hear what I have to say,” said Antonovich, and before the deputy editor could say another word, he sat down across from him. “Rosenberg shouldn’t complain that I mistakenly identified him as a Zhid. For the last two months I’ve been investigating, and he has relatives from Israel who forged documents in order to be called Jews. And that’s just the beginning. I have even bigger news than that.”
The deputy editor raised his eyes from his keyboard. “Really?” he said. “Come, take your information to Sergevsky; perhaps it will interest him. Although I’m not sure he will want to openly take on Rosenberg again, even if we have proof that the defamation suit he filed was not baseless.”
The reporter sat in the editor-in-chief Sergevsky’s room for 40 minutes and presented the information he had unearthed.
“Interesting … very interesting,” Sergevsky murmured. “Yefim!” he called in the direction of the outer room. “Try to arrange a meeting with Rosenberg. We have some very interesting things to show him.” He clasped his fingers together and gazed at them. After a moment, he raised his eyes to Vasiliy.
“If you are right, we will hire you again,” he said. “But if not, don’t ever step foot in here again, not even if you have solid proof that the Israeli prime minister is Nikolai Rosenberg’s twin brother. Is that clear?”
It certainly was clear to Vasiliy Antonovich.
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include Diamond in the Rough, Divided Attention, Behind the Scenes, Without a Trace, Dance of the Puppet, Blood Brothers, and The Kenya Conspiracy. She resides in Israel. Stay tuned for the next installment in next week’s Five Towns Jewish Times or visit 5tjt.com for more.