The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion first appeared in Russia around 1903. They are supposedly the minutes of a secret meeting of Jewish conspirators which took place during the First Zionist Conference in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. They outline their plan for subverting and taking over the world. They can be read online here .
In 1917 after the Bolsheviks seized power and civil war broke out in Russia, the Protocols became popular among the anti-Communist “Whites” who believed they proved the Jews were behind Communism.
In 1920 the Protocols were published in English as The Jewish Peril. The Times newspaper of London originally wondered if they were authentic.
They were also popular in Nazi Germany. Norman Cohn writes,
“The Protocols and the myth of Jewish world conspiracy were exploited in Nazi propaganda at every stage, from the first emergence of the party in the 1920s to the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945. They were exploited first to help the party to power – then to justify a regime of terror – then to justify war – then to justify genocide – and finally to postpone surrender to the Allies.” (Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, Serif, London, 2001, p 214)
“The Protocols did sell excellently – and, unlike that other sacred text of the Third Reich, Mein Kampf, they were not only purchased but read. It is certain, too, that many of those who read them became fanatical believers. In less than two years after Hitler’s accession to power intellectual and moral standards in Germany had dropped to a point where a Minister of Education could prescribe the Protocols as one of the basic textbooks for schools.”(Warrant for Genocide, p 222)
The Protocols are still popular today in the Middle East and among anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups who believe there is Jewish or Zionist conspiracy to rule the world. The authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail , which I have discussed here, suggested that they were genuine, but they were about the Priory of Sion, not the Jews ( Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Arrow Books, London, 1996, p 198-203 ). They are even promoted by some Christian conspiracy theorists such as Texe Marrs , Doc Marquis and Kent Hovind.
There are some obvious problems with the Protocols (and not just because there is no international Zionist-Communist conspiracy to rule the world). For a start, it says things which do not sound like the sort of thing which Jews would say, such as,
“The king of the Jews will be the real Pope of the Universe, the patriarch of an international Church.” (Protocol No. 17)
Would Jews really use such terms?
Its supporters claim that the Protocols show that the Jews or Zionists were behind Communism and the Russian Revolution. However, the Protocols contain only a couple of brief references to Communism (Protocols No. 2 and 3). One would not get the impression reading the Protocols when they first came out in 1903 that the Elders of Zion were planing to orchestrate a Communist revolution in Russia. This interpretation was read into the Protocols after 1917 by anti-Semitic anti-Communists.
The Protocols do take the credit for the introduction of liberalism,
“When we introduced into the State organism the poison of LIberalism, its whole political complexion underwent a change. States have been seized with a mortal illness – blood-poisoning. All that remains is to await the end of their death agony.” (Protocol No. 10)
100 years ago liberalism referred to liberal-democratic values which modern conservatives subscribe to. These are supposed to be the creation of the Elders of Zion. This is ironic since some believers in the Protocols, such as the League of Rights in Australia, say they are defenders of liberal-democratic values.
The Protocols also claim that they have been behind the idea of freedom of conscience to undermine Christianity (Protocol No. 17). They claim that their only serious foes at that time were the Russian aristocracy and the Papacy (Protocol No. 15). What about the rest of Europe and their colonial empires and the rising United States?
The Protocols also tell us that they are going to overthrow all the governments of the world on one day,
“When we at last definitely come into our kingdom by the aid of coups detat prepared everywhere for one and the same day…” (Protocol No. 15).
Over 100 years later, we’re still waiting.
The Protocols were exposed as a hoax not long after they were published in English.
On March 4, 1921 the New York Times reported that in a lecture at the Hotel Astor Princess Catherine Radziwill, a Polish aristocrat, said she had seen a Russian agent Mathieu Golovinski working on the manuscript of the Protocols in 1905. She appears to have got the date wrong because the Protocols had already been published in Russia in 1903.
On August 16, 17 and 18, 1921, The Times newspaper of London published a series of articles “The Truth About “The Protocols” A Literary Forgery” by Philip Graves which can be read online here. They showed that the protocols wer a forgery. Rather than being the minutes of a real meeting of Jews in 1897, parts of it had been plagiarised from a 1864 French book Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu by Maurice Joly (1829-1878). The book was a veiled attack on Napoleon III (1852-1870) presented in the form of a dialogue between Montesquieu, who argued for liberalism, and Machiavelli who argued for despotism. In 1865 Joly was imprisoned for 15 months for the book.
Over 160 passages from the protocols, around 40% of the text, were based on Joly’s Dialogue. Most of the passages are from Machiavelli’s arguments, since, like the supposed Elders of Zion, he was the one who thought despotism and tyranny were a good idea (Warrant for Genocide, p 82).
Examples of these plagiarised passages are printed in The Times‘ articles, Norman Cohn’s Warrant for Genocide (p 295-289) and Will Eisner’s graphic novel The Plot (W.W. Norton New York, 2005, p 73-89)
In 1999 an article “The Origin of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in the French newspaper L’Express, a Microsoft Translator copy of which can be read here, reported that the Russian historian Mikhail Lepekhine had found evidence in the Russian archives that in 1917 Henri Bint, a Russian agent in Paris, identified Mathieu Golovinski as the author of the Protocols.
Mathieu or Matvei Golovinski (1865-1920) was a member of the Russian aristocracy who worked for the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police, in Paris. Conservative members of the Okhrana objected to the modernization and liberal reforms of Tsar Nicholas II. The purpose of forging the Protocols was to discourage those attempts at reform by portraying them as serving the interests of the Jewish conspiracy. This would explain why, as mentioned above, the Protocols claimed the Jews were behind liberalism. The Russian aristocracy was considered so important because the Protocols were written for a Russian audience.
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Golovinski changed sides and joined the Bolsheviks. He died in 1920.
Eyewitness evidence and the obvious plagiarism in the Protocols show they are not the minutes of a secret meeting of Jews in 1897.