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The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is Published, 1903

On This Day in Jewish History: August 26, 1903

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times.” It has been described as “probably the most influential work of antisemitism ever written.” It was first published as a series of articles in ‘Znamya’, a Russian ‘Black Hundreds’ newspaper, characterized as a reactionary, monarchist and ultra-nationalist movement. The Protocols was serialized in nine issues each with the title, “The Jewish Programme of the Conquest of the World.”

Later, in 1906, the Protocols was published as a pamphlet, containing 24 sections articulating the alleged plans of a group of Jews, collaborating clandestinely, seeking world domination, whereby “the world order will fall into the hands of a cunning elite, who have schemed forever and are now fated to rule until the end of time.” Of the 24 topics within the pamphlet, titles include “Methods of Conquest”, “The All-Embracing Propaganda,” “The Kingdom of the Press and Control” and “The Jewish Ruler.”

Between 1903-1906, 3 (and later more) editions of the Protocols were published and circulated throughout the Russian Empire. They served not only as a tool for scapegoating Jews, but also as a political weapon. Indeed, the Jews were blamed by Russian monarchists for Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and also blamed for social unrest within Russia (the Revolution of 1905) as part of their scheme of ‘world domination.’

The political unrest within the Empire was blamed on the Jews too. The Protocols were used against the Bolsheviks – the radical revolutionaries of Russia at the time – who were ‘overwhelmingly Jewish,’ and supposedly executing the ‘plan’ of the Protocols.

It was this same rhetoric used by Russian conspirators which was later used and promoted by Hitler. Notably, “Hitler referred to the Protocols in some of his early political speeches, and, throughout his career, he exploited the myth that "Jewish-Bolshevists" were conspiring to control the world.”

In the American context, the ugly accusations of The Protocols were most decisively spread by automaker Henry Ford who, in 1920, drew upon them for a multi-part story, “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem” that ran in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Ford published the serial in book form, placing a half-million copies into circulation. Hitler and Goebbels would find inspiration in Ford’s book.

In addition to being circulated and popularized throughout the Russian Empire, the book spread to the West from 1918 onwards. Catalysed by the political instability in post-WW1 Europe, the Great Depression and the rise of Nazism, the Protocols grew ever more popular. As such, the Jews were blamed for Germany’s loss of World War One – ‘The Stab in the Back Theory’ – from 1918, which later served as a significant element of Nazi propaganda. The Great Depression was also blamed on the Jews as part of their plan for ‘world domination.’

The propaganda of the Protocols spread like wildfire throughout the West, and later, throughout the world. It is still promoted as a real plan to this day, particularly in regions such as the Middle East, where it is sold as an authoritative text, taught in schools as historical fact, promoted by the media etc. Remarkably, it was not until 2020 that the Saudi government stopped referencing the Elders of Zion in school textbooks. In 2016, Iran’s supreme leader, Raisi, oversaw the production of a 50-episode documentary film promoting the Protocols. There are at least 9 different Arabic translations of the Protocols. That’s more editions than in any other language including German (even during the Nazi period).

The Protocols are deeply embedded in the Western psyche too. People have declared COVID-19 to be a plot by the Jews to cause instability and ‘take over the world.’



Bronner, Stephen Eric (2003) [2000]. A Rumor About the Jews: Reflections on Antisemitism and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. New York: Oxford University Press.








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