The Protocols is a document that anti-semites often use to back up their position. It outlines, in detail, how a secret conclave of Jews, the Elders of Zion, will take over the world. It's a work of fiction, written by the Russian Secret Police in the late 19th century, to discredit the Czar's enemies who worked closely with Jews. Since then, it has been translated into many languages. Hitler used it as evidence in Mein Kampf.

The publication of the Protocols in the United States was funded by Henry Ford, who was a prominent anti-Semite and racist.

I've read this book, and it makes the International Jewish Conspiracy look pretty good--the evil scheme of the Elders of Zion calls for the institution of democracy and universal education. Once the masses have gotten the ability to think for themselves and make control their own destinies, they'll run the aristocrats out of power.

If I had to choose between a world run by the Elders of Zion and one run by the Tsar, I'd vote for the Elders any day...

The Protocols have received a lot of attention recently (appearing as news in Saudi Arabian newspapers, for example), so more details on their creation and early history is justified.

They were first circulated through the newspaper The Banner in the Ukraine in 1903. The document specifically describes how Jews will take over the world by working with freemasons, atheists, stock market manipulators, corrupt politicians, and other miscreants. Jews will collapse civil society, promote violence, then bomb the christian captitals of Europe and infect their populations with lethal bacteria. Once in control, the Jews replace the gold standard with paper, banish dissent, and jail opponents. Widespread belief in the Protocols probably was responsible for the assassination of German Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau, who was rumored to be an elder of zion.

In 1921, Philip Graves, Constantinople correspondent for the Times of London, came across an 1864 French political satire on Napoleon III by Maurice Joly entitled Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu. Many of its passages appear word-for-word in the Protocols.

The Protocols were probably created by Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, an outspoken bigot and head of the Okhrana, Russia’s secret police.

At a 1934 trial in Russia, historian Vladimir Burtsev recalled being told by a number of Czarist officials that the Protocols were bogus.

What's especially interesting about the relationship of the Nazis to the Protocols isn't that the Nazi elite believed in this global conspiracy and saw in it an impetus for action (which is how they made use of the text in their propaganda), but that they self-consciously sought to recreate and replicate the supposed Jewish global conspiracy in the form of Aryan racial domination. The alleged conspiracy of the "Elders of Zion" in ruling the world was exactly the sort of thing that Hitler and his ideological predecessors had in mind for the way their own people would rule the world.

This is one way of explaining the curious fact that it was anti-semitism that became the centrepiece of Nazi propaganda. As Hannah Arendt once wrote, it is "an outrage to common sense" that the relatively insignificant Jewish Question "set the whole infernal machine in motion". But to those who believed in the Protocols (i.e., had departed from the world of common sense), the Jews appeared as the only of Europe's peoples organized in the way that the Nazis claimed was the future of the racial elite of Germany - as a super-national aristocracy, tied to no particular state and yet manipulating the whole course of European life. Hence, for the Nazi claim to be realized, they had to be destroyed.

Hitler was said to know the Protocols off by heart. This fact alone indicates that he did not approve of this document for its sheer propaganda value, but as an example to be emulated. He wanted to create an elite of "chosen people" (chosen not by a covenant between God and the tribe of Israel, as in the Jewish claim, but by their racial ancestry) organized like a secret society, and hence inscrutable to the outside world - yet holding the fate of this world in its hands, because it was viewed as the true motor of History with a capital H. This is how Hitler viewed the role of the Jews in contemporary European life, even though he once remarked that it was more likely to be an unconscious defence of shared interests rather than an explicit conspiracy.

Just as in the Protocols the true motor of History was Jewish interests, embodied in an organization whose functionings could not be discerned by factual reality, Hitler aspired to create a similar organization which would treat the rest of the world like so much raw material to be manipulated for the inscrutable purposes of total global domination - with the exception that his organization actually existed, was an explicit conspiracy, and was willing to engage in acts of extreme violence at all stages of its development. It hence offered a strange attraction to individuals who were fed up with bourgeois life and wanted to become part of an organization that "did something", even if what that organization was going to do was defined no more concretely than to dominate the entire outside world.

Yet the Jewish claim to chosenness seemed to stand in the way of this claim by the Nazi elite that in fact it was the true German who was the chosen one. It hardly mattered that the Jewish bankers had long ago stopped believing in the chosenness of the Jews as such (as seen in their general contempt for poor and uneducated Jews), and had never been much interested in politics anyway. In fact, this was an important point - for had Jews really ruled the world, and had they really been the decisive influence behind the politics of European states, then it is doubtful that these states would have viewed the rise of Hitler's Germany with such equanimity.

That the rise of Germany did appear unstoppable in the 1930s, even as the persecution of German Jewry escalated, hence provided further evidence to the Nazi or his fellow-travellers that the German race was the chosen one. So rotten appeared the structure of bourgeois civilization and its alleged Jewish backers, that it appeared that any movement willing to use naked violence towards its aims - a capability the Jews, in reality, lacked - could overthrow the Jewish rulers and the civilization they allegedly supported. In peddling such a monstrously false version of events, Hitler was showing what he had learned from his reading of the Protocols - how the combination of conspiracy and complete disregard for truth had supposedly propelled the Jew into global power, and could do the same for the Nazi. The Protocols hence were not only an instrument of his own propaganda, but instrumental in shaping the way he carried out his crimes.

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