Anti-Semitism is the world’s oldest hatred and can be traced back to the dawn of Christianity and beyond. It appears in the music and literature of many cultures, exists in popular folklore, and has become a by-word for the worst instincts of man. Stories of the rapacious Jew, the lascivious Jew, the dirty Jew, and the murderous Jew have at varying times become a common currency of belief and it has served to make them the convenient scapegoats of history.
As the nineteenth century drew to a close a book was published that appeared to provide the proof of all that had previously been held to be true, and what had once been prejudice and malice now became political and demanding of a solution. It would provide much of the justification for the horror inflicted less than fifty years later.
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was the brainchild of Piotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, Chief of the Russian Secret Police in Paris, and first emerged sometime in the late 1890’s. It plagiarised in some parts almost word for word a French play written by Maurice Joly ‘The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu,’ which was a critique of the rule of the Emperor Louis Napoleon III.
It had long been the practice of the Authorities in Russia to blame the Jews for the problems that afflicted the Empire and pogroms against them were a fairly regular occurrence with overtly anti-Semitic organisations such as the Black Hundreds existing specifically for this purpose and operating with the tacit approval of the Russian Government.
So when the Protocols claimed to depict a verbatim report of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world it was readily believed.
The Jews of course were already the world's pariah people long before the publication of the Protocols, and there were few horrors for which they had not been held responsible.
First tainted in the Bible as Christ-killers around AD 167, it had since been a popularly held view among Christians of all denominations that King Herod and the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas had conspired to have Jesus executed whilst the Roman Governor of Judaea Pontius Pilate washed his hands of all responsibility.
Of course, it was never enough for the Jews to be accused of merely executing the Son of God - the Crucifixion was never going to quench their first for Christian blood. That they regularly kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Christian children to use their blood during the celebration of their Holy Days was common currency, and two of the most famous examples were said to be the murders of William of Norwich in 1144 and Hugh of Lincoln in 1255.
The Jews were also widely loathed for their meanness and rapacity, a reputation that largely derives from the Christian Churches ban on usury.
Usury is the charging of interest on loans and the Third Lateran Council of March 1197 had decreed that any Christian who charged interest on loans could receive neither the Sacraments nor a Christian burial. Pope Clement V reinforced this policy by declaring usury a heresy in 1311.
The Jewish faith which also bans the charging of interest on loans within its own community permits it in dealings with gentiles.
Banned from most other professions around Europe Jews quickly filled the void created by the Christian embargo on usury becoming pawnbrokers and moneylenders, and it wasn't long before they became an essential part of medieval life, and widely despised for being so.
In 1276, King Edward I of England became the first ruling Monarch to force the Jews to wear yellow felt badges to distinguish them from other people and in 1290, he expelled them from the country and received a massive tax grant from the Pope for having done so to compensate for the ensuing loss of revenue.
Indeed, these were traumatic times for the Jewish diaspora.
They had already been expelled from France in 1254 by King Louis IX, and were likewise expelled from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella. On each occasion all of their money and property was confiscated but then they had been lucky to escape with their lives, others adopted a more brutal approach, particularly in Germany where the massacre of entire Jewish communities became commonplace.
So the publication of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was just the latest in a long history of Jewish persecution but now this persecution would no longer be the result of hatred, envy, and religious bigotry alone. They were now accused of actively conspiring to world domination and it would no longer be enough to simply expel them from a country or hide them from view they would have to be eliminated altogether.
By the 1920's the Protocols had been widely circulated and were believed by some to be the verbatim minutes of a meeting of Jewish Elders to discuss their progress towards global domination. Others believed them to be the secret details of the first Zionist Congress held in Switzerland in 1895.
Claiming that all Jews are controlled by a central power, the Council of Elders, the Protocols is divided into 26 chapters and lectures the Jewish people on first subversion and then control advocating that Jews infiltrate the upper-echelons of all civil and political life from the military, to local government, commerce and industry, banking, and even the world of entertainment. That no aspect of life was to be free of Jewish influence until governance by the Jew for the Jew is established around the Globe.
According to the Protocols the Gentiles were the sheep and the Jews the Wolves, "and we know what happens when the Wolves get among the flock."
Many powerful men found in the Protocols justification for their own often latent anti-Semitism and the reason to find a political solution to the perceived Jewish threat.
The American industrialist Henry Ford, who made the first mass-produced motorcar, the Model T Ford, and became a billionaire as a result, personally financed the printing of 500,000 copies of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and distributed them free to his workers around the world. He also disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda through his own newspaper the Dearborn Independent.
In 1921, he embarked upon a speaking tour where he preached that the Protocols were proof of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and of their threat to world peace. In 1927, he was taken to court, charged with libel, and what we would know now as incitement to racial hatred.
He denied the charge stating that he had never in any way been anti-Semitic, or that he had ever been the author of any of the articles that had appeared in the Dearborn Independent, though he allowed them to appear under his name.
He went onto publicly condemn anti-Semitism and apologise for those things that had been written in his name.
Cleared of the charges the following year he closed the Dearborn Independent, though when he was questioned later regarding the Protocols he said:
“The Protocols were sixteen years old and had fitted the world situation up to this time.”
Despite his retraction and denials those articles that had been written for the Dearborn Independent were collected and published in Germany under the title ‘The International Jew, The World's Foremost Problem,’ and he remained a hero of Adolf Hitler who kept a photograph of Henry Ford in his office.
Yet the Protocols were known to be a hoax long before the trial of Henry Ford.
In 1901, Tsar Nicholas II, an enthusiastic anti-Semite, had ordered his Chief Minister Piotr Stolypin to carry out an Inquiry into the Protocols origins. When Stolypin reported back that they were in fact a forgery the Tsar ordered all copies confiscated and destroyed remarking that: "A good cause cannot be defended by dirty means." His own copy, however, remained well-thumbed.
In 1921, The Times of London exposed the Protocols to be a forgery once and for all.
Its correspondent in Istanbul, Philip Graves revealed it to have been plagiarised almost word for word from the play by Maurice Joly, and in a series of damning articles The Times picked apart the validity of the Protocols revealing the very notion of a Global Jewish Conspiracy to be an absurd calumny. Despite this many people still stubbornly refused to believe it.
Adolf Hitler first read the Protocols in 1918 and was to later write in Mein Kampf:
“To what extent the whole existence of this people is based on a continuous lie is shown incomparably by the Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion, so infinitely hated by the Jews. They are based on a forgery it is said, the best proof that they are authentic. What many Jews do unconsciously is here consciously exposed. And it is this which matters.”
According to the future Fuhrer in a Jewish dominated world the Protocols would of course be exposed as a fake and they were not only to form as many saw it the moral basis of Nazi anti-Semitism but underpin the political necessity of the Final Solution and the Holocaust that followed.
During the Nazi Regime the Protocols were a standard text book in German schools and under the auspices of Josef Goebbels the Propaganda Ministry was to distribute the book widely not just in Germany itself but throughout Nazi Occupied Europe.
Indeed, anti-Semitic propaganda was unrelenting culminating in 1940 with the film The Eternal Jew so gross and vile in the depiction of its target that it even turned the stomach of many Germans who had been exposed to the coarse and mocking tone of anti-Jewish Nazi rhetoric on a daily basis for many years.
And still it continues.
In South Africa during the 1980's it was used to tarnish the anti-Apartheid Movement, it is still widely believed to be true by Far-Right Groups around the world, and continues to be widely disseminated and read in the Middle-East.
Indeed, it remains possible to download the Protocols from the Internet with no explanation as to its origins or mention the fact that it is a forgery and was used as a justification for the industrialised slaughter of millions of men, women, and children.
There has never been a deadlier deception.