Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

It doesn’t seem to matter at all that the text may have originated as a plagiarized anti-Jesuit diatribe, a warning about the Illuminati’s role in the French Revolution, a fictional account of a meeting in a Prague cemetery, or a political satire of Napoleon III; the Protocols have been used since 1900 to perpetuate the myth of a global Jewish conspiracy.

In the opinions of some researchers, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion may truly be the mother of all anti-Semite conspiracies. No matter how often the work is proved to be a forgery, some conspiracy theorists will continue to cite the Protocols as proof that an international group of Jewish bankers is plotting to take over the world.

Some scholars point to The Secrets of the Elders of Bourg-Fontaine, a forged work that was used to discredit the followers of Jansenism, an anti-Jesuit French Catholic movement among the secular clergy as a possible inspiration for the style of the Protocols. The mathematical genius Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), who devoted himself to religious studies and is perhaps best known today for his Pensées, was a Jansenist and wrote Provincial Letters, heavily critical of the Jesuits. Secrets of the Elders was probably written in retaliation and provided some inflammatory accusations that could be rewritten as attacks against the Jews or anyone else whom a plagiarist wished to defame.

Another work that some researchers point out as having language and a format identical to the Protocols is The Secret Plan of the Order (1828). This book claims to reveal the Great Jesuit Conspiracy to control the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the pope, all the European monarchies, and to establish a world government run by Jesuits. Again, the fantasy of a plot by Jesuits to control the world could easily be shifted to a Jewish plot for global domination.

Some researchers feel the seed for the myth of a global Jewish conspiracy may have been planted circa 1799, after Abbé Augustin Barruel published his four-volume study entitled Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism. Barruel’s purpose for writing such an extensive work was to warn the European nations that the Illuminati sought to promote anarchy, revolution, and the dissolution of all monarchies. The secret society’s master plan was to destroy the aristocracy and appear to bring power to the people while, in reality, exploiting the common folk as puppets. Abbé Barruel was convinced that the Illuminati had worked behind the scenes to bring about the French Revolution, the first of several political uprisings to come. In 1797, two years before Barruel’s much more famous work, John Robison’s book Proofs of a Conspiracy against All of the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried On in the Secret Meetings of Freemasons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies also outlined the plot of world domination being set in motion by the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and other secret societies.

Although neither Robison nor Barruel attacked Jews or even made any mention of them, in 1806 Barruel received a letter from J. B. Simonini, who claimed to have discovered an ancient, wealthy, and powerful sect of Jews who had confessed to him that they had formed the Illuminati and the Freemasons. Their next coup would be to install a Jewish pope, gain control of the Catholic Church, then begin to seize all the monarchies and nations of the world.

Whether or not Barruel took seriously the fanciful notion of an ancient Jewish cabal controlling the world’s secret societies, a former official in the Prussian postal service, Hermann Goedsche, thought the idea of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy would provide an interesting chapter in his novel Biarritz (1868), published under his pen name, Sir John Retcliffe. In the chapter entitled “In the Jewish Cemetery in Prague,” the author spun a tale of how every hundred years the elders of the twelve tribes of Israel gather at the graveside of the most senior rabbi and tell Satan of their plot to enslave the Gentile world.

Goedsche had already gained some notoriety for forging letters indicating that democratic leader Benedict Waldeck was conspiring to assassinate Frederick William IV, the king of Prussia. Goedsche’s plot was discovered and he was dismissed from the postal service. From writing forgeries to writing fiction was not a great expansion of his abilities. However well the novel Biarritz may have been received, in 1872 the single chapter about the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel meeting with Satan in a Prague graveyard was excerpted from the context of the novel and reprinted in Russia as a pamphlet based on fact. In 1881 the French paper Le Contemporain reprinted the story as fact supposedly reported by an English diplomat, Sir John Radcliff (adapting Goedsche’s pen name), who planned a full-length book on the secret meeting entitled Annals of the Political and Historic Events of the Last Ten Years.

In 1891 the same tale, with some modifications, appeared in the Russian newspaper Novorossiysky Telegraf, which purported that the work was based on a speech made in 1869 by a rabbi to a secret Sanhedrin. By 1900 this “speech” was being used to justify pogroms against the Jews. In 1903, in Kishinev in the Ukraine, forty-five Jews were killed, four hundred were injured, and 1,300 Jewish homes and businesses were destroyed.

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was first published in Russia in 1903 and consists of twenty-four chapters and 1,200 pages. The work alleges to be a series of lectures in which a member of the secret Jewish world government (the Elders of Zion) reveals the plan for world domination. Representative titles among the twenty-four separate “protocols” include “Materialism Replaces Religion,” “World-Wide Wars,” “Control of the Press,” “Arrest of Opponents,” and “Power of Gold.”

The work was well used by the tsar’s secret police not only to justify a pogrom against all Jews but, just prior to the Russian Revolution, to enlarge the circle of violence against all revolutionaries. The Protocols soon spread to Germany, where the people were already beginning to blame their defeat in World War I on the Jewish bankers. Within another decade the Nazi party would embrace the stereotypes and lies in Protocols as absolute truth and as justification for igniting the Holocaust.

The Protocols was translated into an English-language edition by Victor Marsden of the Morning Post in London, and copies of the book were distributed in the U.S. by Boris Brasol, a former Tsarist prosecutor. In his introduction to the book Marsden warned that the Jews were creating wars and revolutions in order to destroy the white Gentile race, so “that the Jews may seize the power during the resulting chaos and rule with their claimed superior intelligence over the remaining races of the world.”

The auto magnate Henry Ford’s newspaper the Dearborn Independent published an American version of the book from May to September of 1920 in a series entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” Later the columns were published in book form with half a million copies in circulation in the United States.

In August 1921 the New York Times ran editorials by Phillip Graves of the Times of London, who exposed the Protocols as a plagiarism of a rare French political satire, Dialogues in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (also known as Dialogues of Geneva), written by Maurice Joly in 1864. The pamphlet is a criticism of Napoleon III imagined as a conversation between Montesquieu, representing liberalism, and Machiavelli, representing autocracy and a thinly veiled satirical portrait of Napoleon (who was deposed in 1871). Joly, an attorney, had the pamphlet published in Belgium, then smuggled it over the French border. Police seized and confiscated as many copies as they could, then managed to trace the authorship to Joly, who was tried in 1865 and imprisoned for fifteen months. As Graves pointed out, over 160 passages from the Protocols—nearly half the text—are very similar to ones found in Joly’s book. Some sections of the Protocols are nearly word for word from the French attorney’s imagined dialogue between representatives of two opposing political ideologies. As Graves noted, the principal differences are the change of time reference from the past to the future and the fact that Joly does not mention Jews in his pamphlet.

As it turns out, additional research indicates that Joly himself appears to have plagiarized a large amount of text from a popular novel by Eugene Sue, The Mysteries of Paris (1843). In Sue’s novel the hellish plotters are Jesuits, and there is no mention of any Jewish conspiracy. Interestingly, Sue’s well-known novel The Wandering Jew (1844) is not about Jews either.

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, it would seem, is an amalgam of plagiarized political pamphlets, fictional documents, and various inflammatory works—many of which in their original context did not even concern themselves with Jews but were attacks on Jesuits.

On June 26, 2005, Joseph Weinstein, who identified himself as Jewish, wrote “‘Protocols of Zion’—A Non-Zionist Jewish Perspective” as a letter to the editor of the website. Weinstein asserts that at this stage of history, it doesn’t really matter who wrote the Protocols; what matters, according to him, is that they appear to be “the key to understanding the current collapse of our civilization.” Weinstein states that even after reading the Protocols as many as ten times, he always comes away amazed at how the strategies outlined in the work are “slowly confiscating our properties, eroding our economies, and the civil rights of the populations in western countries.” He comments that it is “mind-bogglingly awesome” to consider that a very small Zionist group has succeeded so well in “replacing, controlling or seriously influencing most of the political, military and intelligence leadership of western countries.” But if, indeed, such a very small, very wealthy, very powerful group of Zionist Jews have been able to implement nearly every one of the Protocols, says Weinstein, they have managed to accomplish this “behind the backs and without the knowledge of 99% of we Jews.”

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