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n our day, all the governments of the entire world are consciously or unconsciously submissive to the commands of this great Supergovernment of Zion, because all the bonds and securities are in its hands: for all countries are indebted to the Jews for sums which they will never be able to pay. All affairs — industry, commerce, and diplomacy — are in the hands of Zion. It is by means of its capital loans that it has enslaved all nations. By keeping education on purely materialistic lines, the Jews have loaded the Gentiles with heavy chains with which they have harnessed them to their Supergovernment.”

Sergei Nilus (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Some might think that the ones above are Hitler’s words, perhaps written in his “Mein Kampf”. Anyway, they are not. These words, which are the epilogue of a historically important book, would have later become an inspiration for the German dictator and his propaganda, but actually, they are dated 1905. In 1905 Hitler was far from being involved in politics, as he had just completed compulsory school and, to celebrate it, he got drunk. We don’t know if he had elaborated on his anti-Semite ideology yet, but this is not important. Therefore, the ones above are not Hitler’s words, instead, they were written by Sergei Nilus, a Russian religious writer, and self-described mystic.

Nilus was the first one who published a text called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in 1905. It is commonly assumed among scholars, though, that the text is dated a bit earlier, which is 1902–1903. Assuming that is true, this would mean that this text started to circulate in Russia at the dawning of the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire in which thousands of Jews died or fled the country.

Political background

When Poland was divided into three partitions towards the end of the 18th century, Russia inherited the world’s largest Jewish population. The Jews lived in the West of the Russian Empire and they didn’t mingle too much with the local citizenship. When they became part of Russia, their local affairs were organized through the qahal, the semi-autonomous Jewish government, including matters such as taxation and conscription into the Imperial Russian Army.

In the 19th century, though, the “Springtime of the Peoples” took place. This historical phenomenon is also known as the Revolutions of 1848. These riots occurred throughout Europe and they were grounded on political, economical and cultural reasons. Their purpose was to overthrow the old-fashioned European monarchies and replace them with liberal governments. In some countries these revolutions were successful, but in most of them, they were not.

For its part, the Russian ruling class became more hardline in its reactionary policies, upholding the banner of Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality. As a consequence, non-Russian subjects, including the Jews, became outcast.

The Belostok Pogrom (14–16 June 1906) in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The development of Zionism

The belief that the Jews are one people and should have a state of their own dates back to the second half of the 19th century. In response to a series of programs that had broken out in Russia in 1881, Leo Pinsker, a Jewish doctor from Odessa, published an essay called “Auto-Emancipation” which saw a return to the Land of Israel by the Jewish people as the only way to be liberated from the burden of life as a Jewish minority. On August 1897, Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist, convened the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland.

The Protocols, a fake-document

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a fake-document pretending to be real. Probably, it was originally written as a parody of Jewish idealism meant for internal circulation among antisemites. Written mainly in the first person plural, that is the Elders of Zion, the text suggests Jewish alleged plans to rule the world, where that was not happening yet. It includes generalizations, truisms and platitudes on how to take over the world: take control of the media and the financial institutions, change the traditional social order, determine the trend of the economy, and so on.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Protocols all around the world

Despite the fact that Philip Graves, an Irish journalist, proved the non-authenticity of The Protocols in 1921 in a series of articles in The Times, the text didn’t stop circulating among antisemites. The Protocols were used to spread anti-Semitism in the Arab world, then in Nazi Germany, where the text was part of schooling programs, and in Fascist Italy. At the beginning of the ’20s, Henry Ford published half a million copies in the United States of the English version of The Protocols. Also today, the followers of conspiracy theories and antisemites, think about The Protocols as an authentic text.

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