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The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
A major legacy of the late 19th century Russian antisemitism was the fabricated text known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The work originated in circles of the Russian secret police, based on materials borrowed from earlier conspiratorial anti-Jewish writings and theories. Originally published in the early 20th century under the title Antikhrist, the Protocols disseminated, eventually becoming one of the most widely distributed antisemitic publications of modern times. The conspiratorial content presented in the publication serves to explain its attractiveness to antisemitic ideologues, parties, and movements.
So the tsarist secret police put together this document that basically chronicled the meetings, the alleged meetings, that took place over time in Prague at the site of the Jewish cemetery by Jewish elders who came together to discuss ways in which they could rule the world, in which Jews could rule the world. So every single movement in history, every single event in history, can be that way attributed to the Jews. The Jews have a scheme, have a ploy, to rule over the world. And they … you know … so the French Revolution, according to these protocols, was orchestrated by the Jews, socialism invented by the Jews, capitalism, every single event.
This spread, the Protocols spread in Central and Western Europe, although very soon in the early 1920s, the origin of the Protocols with the secret police of the tsarist regime was uncovered and explained and some of those, who had actually believed that the Protocols was something real, realized that they’d been led astray and then attacked the Protocols. But the Protocols spread because the antisemites, antisemitic movements, first in Europe and then elsewhere, were looking for some text which they could rely on, which they could spread. Conspiracy theories are always very popular because people can’t explain the complicated development of history. So they are looking for some conspiracy that will explain it and here you had a conspiracy.
It was the idea that the Protocols was really a continuation of a very ancient Christian antisemitic trope and that was, that there was a Jewish conspiracy in the world to control the world which is based on Christian antisemitism which charged the Jews of not recognizing the Christian Messiah as God and in order to defeat that God they would coalesce in some way - again a complete invention. But it was something that could be used as a conspiracy theory to attack the Jews. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion spread even though they were revealed as a forgery at an early stage.
The first non-Russian edition was printed in Germany in 1920, followed by further translations into other languages in Poland, France, and England. It also reached the United States during that same year, where the automaker and leading industrialist, Henry Ford, published an Americanized version of the text under the title The International Jew. As can be expected the text also gained prominence among members of the Nazi Party. Leading Nazi figures incorporated it in their ideology as early as the 1920s, as can clearly be seen in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Between their rise to power in 1933 and the beginning of the Second World War, the Nazis published at least 23 editions of the Protocols, which were widely distributed.

Prof. Elissa Bemporad, Prof. Yehuda Bauer

A major legacy of the late 19th century Russian antisemitism was the fabricated text known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Why have the Protocols of the Elders of Zion become one the most widely distributed antisemitic publications of modern times?


  • Cohn, Norman, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (London: Serif, 1996).

  • Landes, Richard and Steven T. Katz, eds., The Paranoid Apocalypse: A Hundred-Year Retrospective on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York : New York University Press, 2012).

  • Levy, Richard S., A Lie and a Libel: The History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

  • Webman, Esther, ed., The Global Impact of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ (London: Routledge, 2011).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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