BUDAPEST, Nov. 3 (JTA) — The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” has proven invincible.
Its origins — contrary to popular belief — are traced to France, not Russia. It was a collaborative effort of French intellectual anti-Semites and Russian anti-Semites within the czarist secret police.
Significantly, it was written amid the infamous Dreyfus affair in 1894. Dreyfus, a French Jew and an army captain, was falsely accused of spying for Germany.
Much of the “Protocols” text, it is now believed, was plagiarized from a French political satire against Napoleon III. The satire was banned in 1864, but it didn’t even mention Jews.
As for the “Protocols,” which details a supposed international Jewish plot to rule the world, it was never published in France. Its debut actually came in Russia, around 1903. Its impact was immediate, as it reportedly triggered a pogrom against the Jews of Odessa. The book picked up steam after the Russian Revolution in 1917, as the vanquished anti-Bolsheviks pinned the blame on Jews, who had played a highly visible role.
In America, perhaps the prime purveyor of the “Protocols” was auto magnate Henry Ford. In 1920 his Michigan newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, published the “Protocols” within a series titled, “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.”
The book form later sold half a million copies. But in 1927, an American judge forced Ford to destroy the remainder.
Not long after, the “Protocols” turned deadlier. Hitler cited it prominently in his “Mein Kampf” and made it a centerpiece of Nazi propaganda. He reportedly believed that Jewish leaders, led by Theodor Herzl, had first hatched their wicked plans for a takeover in 1897, at the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Hitler is said to have later referred to the Protocols as the “Plan of Basel.”
In recent decades, the “Protocols” spread beyond Europe and America, popping up in Japan, South America and the Arab world. Today, Hamas terrorists reportedly justify suicide missions against Israelis by referring to the book.
As for a counteroffensive, groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center have successfully fought the “Protocols” in court. In 1991, it was banned by the South African government as an “immoral” publication, while in Russia, a court in 1993 judged it a forgery. The ultranationalist publisher Dmitri Vasiliev was unrepentant.
“They have no decency left to say the “Protocols” are a fake when the entire history of Russia after 1917 is solid proof that they are genuine,” Vasiliev told the Los Angeles Times.
Referring to the fact that such Communist theoreticians as Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky were Jewish, he said, “Who made the revolution? Who ruined and sold out the country? Take time and read the ‘Protocols’; the answers are there gaping at you from every page.”