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Protocols of the Elders of Zion

An anti-Semitic text accusing Jews of secretly plotting to rule the world. First published in 1903 in Russkoe Znamia [Russian, Russian Banner], which later became the organ of the Black Hundreds, it was published as a brochure in Petersburg in 1905 during the revolution.

In 1921, the English journalist P. Graves showed the Protocols to be a fabrication. They had been written at the instigation of P. Rachkovskii, head of the foreign bureaus of the okhrana (the tsarist secret political police) in order to stir up Russian émigré circles. Not an original work, it is the effort of several authors: the final version was a compilation prepared by the Russian writer M. Golovinskii (associated with the okhrana). For the most part, it was a translation of Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavel (French, Dialogue in Hell Between Montesquieu and Machiavelli), which was critical of Napoleon III. It was written by the Parisian lawyer M. Jolly (1829-78) and published in 1864 in Brussels. A copy was found in the National Library in Paris with notes in the margins written in Russian in various hands. The compilation was also comprised of a summary of the Catechism of a Revolutionary, by S. Nechayev (1847-82) and fragments from The Possessed, by F. Dostoevsky. The entire volume, brought up to date with the events in 1895-99 in France, was attributed to the "Elders of Zion", who were said to have held a secret meeting during the Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897.
The Protocols became enormously popular. Supporters of the Black Hundreds used it to justify the pogrom in Kishinev in 1903. Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, despite having received information from the okhrana about its own role, made the Protocols their favorite reading. They believed them to be prophecies that were in the process of being fulfilled.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Protocols were published in Poland in 1919; in 1920, they were published almost simultaneously, in Germany, France, Great Britain, the United States, Italy, the Scandinavian countries, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Hungary. Echoes of the Protocols were present in an appeal from the Polish Episcopate to the world's bishops during the Polish-Soviet War. By 1939, in Germany 33 editions had been published; after Hitler assumed power, the book became required reading in schools. Hitler himself drew on them for inspiration in writing Mein Kampf.
In Poland, by 1939 nine editions had been produced by the publishing houses of the clerical Association Rozwoj [Polish, Development] and the National-Radical Camp. Father S. Trzeciak, whose work was highly regarded in Nazi Germany, sought and found confirmation in the Bible for statements made in the Protocols. During the occupation in Krakow, reprints appeared in 1937 and 1938.
After the war, these editions were reprinted in 1968, 1982 and 1983 - all at the initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs-as well as after 1989, with at least three editions to date.
(A.C./CM)

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