The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion is an antisemitic hoax purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. It was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the US in the 1920s.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis publicized the text as if it were a valid document, although it was exposed as fraudulent. After the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, it ordered the text to be studied in German classrooms. The historian Norman Cohn suggested that Hitler used the Protocols as his primary justification for initiating the Holocaust—his "warrant for genocide".
The Protocols purports to document the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting of Jewish leaders discussing their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world's economies. It is still widely available today and even now sometimes presented as a genuine document, whether on the Internet or in print in numerous languages.
The Protocols is a fabricated document purporting to be factual. It was originally produced in Russia between 1897 and 1903, possibly by Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, head of the Paris office of the Russian Secret Police, and unknown others.
Source material for the forgery consisted jointly of Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu or Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli andMontesquieu, an 1864 political satire by Maurice Joly and a chapter from Biarritz, an 1868 novel by the antisemitic German novelist Hermann Goedsche, which had been translated into Russian in 1872.
Philip Graves brought this plagiarism to light in a series of articles in The Times in 1921, the first published evidence that the Protocols was not an authentic document.
The Protocols appeared in print in the Russian Empire as early as 1903. The antisemitic tract was published in Znamya, a Black Hundreds newspaper owned by Pavel Krushevan, as a serialized set of articles. It appeared again in 1905 as a final chapter (Chapter XII) of a second edition of Velikoe v malom i antikhrist (The Great in the Small & Antichrist), a book by Serge Nilus. In 1906 it appeared in pamphlet form edited by G. Butmi.
These first three (and subsequently more) Russian language imprints were published and circulated in the Russian Empire during 1903–1906 period as a tool for scapegoating Jews, blamed by the monarchists for the defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the 1905 Russian Revolution. Common to all three texts is the idea that Jews aim for world domination. Since The Protocols are presented as merely a document, the front matter and back matter are needed to explain its alleged origin. The diverse imprints, however, are mutually inconsistent. The general claim is that the document was stolen from a secret Jewish organization. Since the alleged original stolen manuscript does not exist, one is forced to restore a purported original edition. This has been done by the Italian scholar, Cesare G. De Michelis in 1998, in a work which was translated into English and published in 2004, where he treats his subject as Apocrypha. As fiction in the genre of literature the tract was further analyzed by Umberto Eco in his novel Foucault's Pendulum in 1988 (English translation in 1989), in 1994 in chapter 6, "Fictional Protocols", of his Six Walks in the Fictional Woods and in his 2010 novel The Cemetery of Prague.
As the 1917 Russian Revolution unfolded, causing white Russians to flee to the West, this text was carried along and assumed a new purpose. Until then The Protocols remained obscure; it was now an instrument for blaming Jews for the Russian Revolution. It was now a tool, a political weapon used against the Bolshevikis who were depicted as overwhelmingly Jews, allegedly executing the "plan" embodied in The Protocols. The purpose was to discredit the October Revolution, prevent the West from recognizing the Soviet Union, and bring the downfall of Vladimir Lenin's regime.
The Protocols continue to be widely available around the world, particularly on the internet, as well as in print in Japan, the Middle East, Asia, and South America.
Governments or political leaders in most parts of the world have not referred to the Protocols since WWII. The exception to this is the Middle East, where a large number of Arab and Muslimregimes and leaders have endorsed them as authentic, including endorsements from Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat of Egypt, one of the President Arifs of Iraq, King Faisal ofSaudi Arabia, and Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya. The 1988 charter of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist group, states that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion embodies the plan of the Zionists. Recent endorsements in the 21st century have been made by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, the education ministry of Saudi Arabia, member of the Greek Parliament Ilias Kasidiaris, and young earth creationist and tax protester Kent Hovind.
In 2010, Italian philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco released his novel The Cemetery of Prague which contains a fictional account of the origin of The Protocols forgery.
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