Protocols of the Elders of Zion Is Published

August 26, 1903

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most widely distributed anti-Semitic publication in modern history, was first published in Znamya, a Russian newspaper.  A plagiarized version of the 1864 French political satire by Maurice Joly Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was most likely written in Paris sometime at the end of the nineteenth century.  Protocols took its dialogue from Joly’s work, which contains no references to Jews or Judaism, and altered it to become the protocols of an alleged conference of worldwide Jewish leaders.  The fictitious Jewish conference may have been an allusion to the First Zionist Congress held in 1897.

Protocols played on traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes and depicted a secret Jewish conspiracy for world domination through manipulation and corruption.  It states,

The people of Israel must direct its ambition towards the height of power which brings esteem and honors.  The surest means of attaining it is to have control over all industrial, financial and commercial operations, while carefully avoiding every trap and temptation which might expose one to legal proceedings in the country’s courts.  In its choice of speculation the children of Israel will therefore display the prudence and tact which are the mark of its congenital talent for business. (As reprinted by Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World, Second Edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 362)

The August 1903 publication received little attention, but it was widely distributed and translated following World War I and the Russian Revolution.  It was a major contributor to incitement against the Jews during the wave of pogroms that swept Russia from 1918 to 1920.  Despite being proven as a fraud in 1921 by The London Times, Protocols continued to gain widespread circulation and readers.  It was used in Nazi propaganda in the 1930s and 1940s.  It is still widely used by anti-Semites today, especially on the internet.