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Sergei Nilus
History of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion
Freemasonry was linked to the Protocols by Sergei Aleksandrovich Nilus (1862-1929) when he included the Protocols as an appendix to the 1905 second edition of his 1901 autobiography, The Great in the Small: Antichrist considered as an imminent political possibility (Sergiev Posad, 1905). In the 1905 edition of his book, Nilus claimed that the meetings of the Elders of Zion referred to in the Protocols took place in 1902-03. He later claimed to have acquired the Protocols in 1901.
In the introduction to the 1911 edition of his book, Nilus says:

In 1901, I succeeded through an acquaintance of mine (the late Court Marshal Alexei Nocolayevitch Sukotin of Tchernigov) in getting a manuscript that exposed with unusual perfection and clarity the course and development of the secret Jewish Freemasonic conspiracy, which would bring this wicked world to its inevitable end. The person who gave me this manuscript guaranteed it to be a faithful translation of the original documents that were stolen by a woman from one of the highest and most influential leaders of the Freemasons at a secret meeting somewhere in France—the beloved nest of Freemasonic conspiracy. [Morris Kominsky The Hoaxers 1970. p. 209.]

Nilus further contradicts himself as to his sources in his 1917 edition. He asserts that the Protocols were presented at the first Zionist Congress at Basel, Switzerland in 1897 in "Circular 18", contradicting his original claims to their history. This congress was open to the public and was attended by a number of Christian clergy, political figures and reporters. The existence of "Circular 18" has not been documented. Nilus may have been as much a victim of the fraud as any, but there is no record that he ever renounced the Protocols, and Armand du Chayla records Nilus' belief that the source of the text was unimportant.
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, perhaps the most widely known work of modern antisemitism, is based on judeophobic beliefs of mediaeval Europe. Accusations that the Jews used blood of Christian children for the Feast of Passover, spread the plague and poisoned wells incited the destruction of Jewish communities throughout Europe. Other stories were circulated of secret rabbinical conferences whose aim was to subjugate and exterminate the Christians.
The conceptual inspiration for the Protocols can be traced back to the French Revolution period when the Abbé Augustin Barruel (1741/10/02 - 1820/10/05) published four books in 1797, the last two blaming the revolution on a conspiracy operating through the freemasons and Illuminati. Barruel’s ideas were unsupportable. Before the revolution the lodges had been made up mostly of the nobility and landed gentry. By the time Napoleon declared the revolution over, most of the lodges had closed and many of their members were either dead or in exile. Barruel had not blamed the Jews in these books. However in 1806 Barruel circulated a forged letter — probably sent to him by members of the state police opposed to Napoleon Bonaparte’s liberal policy toward the Jews — calling attention to the alleged part of the Jews in the conspiracy he had earlier attributed to the freemasons. This myth of an international Jewish conspiracy reappeared later in nineteenth century Europe. 1
The literary predecessor of the Protocols can be found in the pamphlet Dialogues in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, published by the non-Jewish French satirist Maurice Joly (1829 ['21, '31]-1878) in 1864, although it appears that Joly plagiarized Eugène Sue’s 1843 serialized novel, Les Mysteres de Paris. In Sue’s work, the plotters were Jesuits.
In his Dialogues, which make no mention of the Jews, Joly attacked the political ambitions of the emperor Napoleon III using the imagery of a diabolical plot in Hell. The Dialogues were discovered by the French authorities soon after their publication and Joly was tried and sentenced to prison for his pamphlet.2
Joly’s Dialogues, while intended as a political satire and defence of liberalism, was adopted by a German postal clerk and a spy for the Prussian secret police, Hermann Goedsche (1815-1878), writing under the name of Sir John Retcliffe. He had been forced to leave the postal service due to his part in forging evidence in the prosecution against the Democratic leader Benedict Waldeck in 1849. Goedsche adapted Joly’s Dialogues into a mythical tale of a Jewish conspiracy as part of a series of novels entitled Biarritz, which appeared in 1868. In a chapter called The Jewish Cemetery in Prague and the Council of Representatives of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, he concocts a secret centennial rabbinical conference which meets at midnight and whose purpose is to review the past hundred years and to make plans for the next century.
Goedsche’s plagiary of Joly’s Dialogues soon found its way to Russia. It was translated into Russian in 1872, and a consolidation of the Council of representatives under the name The Rabbi’s Speech appeared in Russian in 1891. These works no doubt furnished the Okhrana, the Russian secret police, with a means with which to strengthen the position of the weak tsar Nicholas II and discredit the reforms of the liberals who sympathized with the Jews. During the Dreyfus afffair of 1893-1895, Matvei Vasilyevich Golovinski (Mathieu Golovinski) (1865-1920), working for the Okhrana in Paris redacted the earlier works of Joly and Goedsche into a new edition in 1890 or 1891, which he called the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The manuscript of the Protocols was brought to Russia in 1895 and was printed privately in pamphlet form in 1897.3
The Protocols did not gain a wide audience until 1905, when Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese war was followed by the revolution in the same year, leading to the promulgation of a constitution and institution of the Duma. In the wake of these events, the reactionary "Union of the Russian Nation", or Black Hundreds organization, sought to incite popular feeling against the Jews, who they blamed for the Revolution and the constitution. To this end they used the Protocols, which was first published in a public edition by the self-styled mystic, Sergius Nilus, in 1905. The Protocols, published in the newspaper Znamia in 1905 and 1906, were part of a propaganda campaign which accompanied the Okhrana incited pogroms of 1905. A variant text of the Protocols was published by George V. Butmi in 1906 and again in 1907. The edition of 1906 was found among the tsar’s collection, even though he had already recognized the work as a forgery. In his later editions, Nilus claimed that the Protocols had been read secretly at the First Zionist Congress at Basle in 1897, while Butmi, in his edition, wrote that they had no connection with the new Zionist movement, but rather were part of the masonic conspiracy.
In the civil war following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the reactionary White Armies made extensive use of the Protocols to incite widespread slaughters of Jews. At the same time, Russian emigrants brought the Protocols to western Europe, where the Nilus edition served as the basis for many translations, starting in 1920. Just after its appearance in London in 1920, Lucien Wolf exposed the Protocols as a plagiary of the earlier work of Joly and Goedsche, in a pamphlet of the Jewish Board of Deputies.4 The following year, on 16, 17 and 18 August 1921, the story of the forgery was published in a series of articles in the Times of London by Philip Graves, the paper’s correspondent in Constantinople.5 A book documenting the forgery was published the same year in the United States by Herman Bernstein. Nevertheless, the Protocols continued to circulate widely. They were even sponsored by Henry Ford in the United States until 1927, and formed an important part of the Nazis' justification of genocide of the Jews in World War II.
In 1933 a suit was brought for libel and distributing "Schunliteratur" (smut literature) against Georg Bernard Haller, editor-in-chief of the Nazi-oriented Confederates of the Oath (Eidgenossen) and its publisher Theodor Fischer. Also named were Theodor Fritsch and Gottfried zur Beek, who died before the trial began.
The trial began in Berne on 29 October 1934, the plaintiffs being the Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund (SIG), assisted by Prof. Hans Matti, and the local "Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Bern, assisted by Georges Brunschvig. On 31 October the trial was adjourned until the end of April 1935. On 14 May 1935 the Cantonal Court of Berne declared the Protocols to be forgeries, plagiarisms, and libelous. In November 1937 the Court of Appeals overturned the earlier judgement on formal grounds but confirmed the previous findings that the Protocols were a fabrication.
Rabbi Dr. Marcus Ehrenpreis gave testimony as a witness in a similar trial in Basel, the plaintiffs in this case being Dr. J. Dreyfus-Brodsky and Dr. Marcus Cohen; in a similar case in Grahamstown, South Africa in August 1934 the Court imposed fines totalling £1,775 ($4,500) on three men for concocting a modern version of the Protocols.6
A curious sidelight to the promotion of the Protocols is given by William Guy Carr (1895-1959) whose undocumented research purports to prove they "are the Long rang Plan of the Illuminati which was explained by Amschel Rothschild to his associates in Frankfort in 1773." [Pawns In The Game. Los Angeles, St. George Press: 1958. p. 157.] Carr may have taken his lead from the introduction to Victor E. Marsden’s English translation where he writes under the heading "A Fifteenth Century "Protocol": "Here is one from the Fifteenth Century which Jews can hardly pronounce a forgery, seeing that it is taken from a Rothschild journal." This appears at the bottom of page 7 but when the reader turns to page 8, there is a new headline and an unrelated topic.
In the USA, the Protocols was republished in Milton William Cooper’s Behold a Pale Horse. (1943/05/06 - 2001/11/06) Between August and November of 2002, the New Jersey based Arabic-language newspaper The Arab Voice published excerpts from the Protocols. In attempting to justify reprinting this hoax, editor and publisher Walid Rabah noted that "some major writers in the Arab nation accept the truth of the book."

1.Encyclopaedia Judaica. Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem (1971), entries on Antisemitism and Elders of Zion, Protocols of the Learned.
2.The Truth About "The Protocols of Zion", Herman Bernstein. (reprinted with introduction by Norman Cohn). Ktav Publishing House, New York (1971).
3.Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Norman Cohn. (Brown Judaic Studies, No. 23). Scholars Press, Chico, CA (1981). Also see 18 November 1999; "Les secrets d'une manipulation antisémite," Eric Conan, L'Express, 24 November 1999; "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Patrick Bishop The Washington Times, November 21, 199, p. C10; The London Telegraph, November 19, 1999.
4.The Jewish Bogey and the Forged Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Lucien Wolf. Press Committee of the Jewish Board of Deputies, London (1920).
5."The Truth About 'The Protocols': A Literary Forgery." The Times of August 16, 17, and 18, 1921. Printing House Square, London.
6.The Jewish World Conspiracy; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion before the Court in Berne, U. Bodung-Verlag, Erfurt, (1938). 22 pages. Also see Der Berner Prozess um die Protokole der Weisen von Zion, Acten und Gutachten, by H. J. von Freyenwald, published at Erfurt, (1939). A copy is in the Weiner Library. A typed copy of the 1937 judgement is in File 20 of the Freyenwald Collection in the Weiner Library, pp. 41-45.

These notes are excerpted, in part, from texts posted into various newsgroups by Danny Kerens and Andrew S. Hall. Further bibliographical sources are available at Nilus Bibliography.


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