The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

<em>The Protocols of the Elders of Zion</em>

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Title: Cover of Jewish Peril, French edition of Protocols des sages de Zion

Creation date : 1920s

Storage location: Shoah Memorial website

Contact copyright: © Shoah Memorial

Cover of the Jewish Peril, French edition of the Protocols of the Sages of Zion

© Shoah Memorial

Publication date: September 2016

Professor of modern history at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis.

Historical context

A fake with worldwide distribution

This image is the cover of the book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. She hatches a devilish plan to take over the world and bring about the "Kingdom of Israel": "The King of the Jews will be the true Pope of the Universe, the Patriarch of the International Church"; “Christians are a flock of sheep, and we are wolves to them. " The Protocols insist on the infiltration of the police through Freemasonry, an instrument at the service of the conspirators, and on the use of the infinite resources of international finance.

This text is both plagiarism, since it notably includes many passages from a satirical text by Maurice Joly, hostile to Napoleon III, Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (1864), and a forgery, fabricated by an informant of the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police, Matvei Golovinsky, to serve as a justification for a policy of persecuting Jews. The first appears in the St. Petersburg newspaper Znamia (The flag), directed by P. A. Krouchevan, a notorious anti-Semite who had fomented the Kishinev pogrom a few weeks earlier. Its success is then immense.

On May 8, 1920, the Times, the leading English daily newspaper, appeals to its readers on the occasion of the publication a few weeks earlier of an anonymous edition of Protocols intended to push the English government to continue its military intervention in Russia, then in the grip of civil war. "What do they mean, these Protocols ? Are they genuine? Have a bunch of criminals really developed such plans, and are they now celebrating their accomplishment? Is this a fake? But how then to explain the terrible prophetic gift that foretold all this in advance? " The Times will not recognize the fake until a year later, but it is too late to stem the tide. As for the American billionaire Henry Ford, a frenzied anti-Semite, he uses his immense fortune to disseminate them widely in the United States in his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, whose articles are repeated in a book with the emblematic title of the theory of the worldwide Jewish conspiracy, The international Jew: the main global problem, soon translated into sixteen languages. It is one of the main relays of Protocols.

Image Analysis

A crude and bloody anti-Semitic caricature

This image is distinguished by its format, since it occupies the entire cover of the book. The title (The Jewish Peril) and even more the subtitle (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) are rejected at both ends, because it is the caricature, brutal and crude, which must strike the reader straight away. It appeals to the then banal representations of the Jew: frizzy hair, a prominent nose, hands with crooked fingers.

Here the "Jewish peril" has planted its sharp nails drawn like claws over Europe and the United States. They are dripping with blood. The choice of these two clearly identified spaces on a terrestrial globe devoid of any legend and any political border owes nothing to chance. The "Jewish peril" first bled dry Europe and America where guilty and accomplice governments let it happen, and it does not intend to stop until it has subverted it. whole world.

At the base of the image, the victims lie naked in a bloodbath. The caption is significantly printed in bright red. The blood of the victims contrasts with the black background of the image - which refers to the deadly nature of the worldwide Jewish conspiracy - but also with the white of the bodies. The bloodbath sends the reader back to a whole anti-Semitic imagination marked by the ritual killings of innocent victims.


A major conspiratorial reference

Crude and little worked, this anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist caricature has been very successful because its message is very simple. It does not require any caption or context. Variants have however been proposed for the many reissues of the Protocols. The globe is still present to highlight the scope of the threat, but in another French edition, it is a spider that encloses it. His head resumes the features mentioned above. The bloody victims are gone, and the caption has been changed slightly to Protocol of the Elders of Israel.

While researchers very early on provided proof that Protocols are false, neither their arguments nor Ford's retraction undermine the certainties of supporters of conspiracy theories. On the contrary, they see it as confirmation that we want to hide the extent of the conspiracy. The revelation of the Shoah does not extinguish the success of Protocols, especially in the Near and Middle East, where they fuel anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. They are also widely distributed on the internet, while the caricature of the cover of Protocols directly influenced the poster for Béatrice Pignède's film, Oligarchy and Zionism (2013). A spider ridden by a skeleton dressed as a banker and wielding the scythe of speculation descends on the globe. American director Marc Levin tried to respond in 2005 to those who believe that the attacks of September 11, 2001 are part of the global conspiracy with a documentary titled precisely Protocols of Zion - it is broadcast in French under the title Rumor Protocols. On the poster, the World Trade Center's twin towers have become two towers of paper, one of which is set on fire. Editorial, media and graphic news from Protocols there is therefore no doubt.

  • anti-semitism
  • jewish plot
  • conspiracy
  • Montesquieu (Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède and)


COHN Norman, Story of a Myth: The Jewish "Conspiracy" and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, trad. from English by POLIAKOV Léon, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "La suite des temps" (no 41), 1967 (repr. Coll. "Folio: Histoire" [no 44], 1992).

ECO Umberto, Prague Cemetery, trad. from Italian by SCHIFANO Jean-Noël, Paris, Grasset, 2011. A well-documented novel that sheds light on the genesis of Protocols.

TAGUIEFF Pierre-André (dir.), The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Paris, Berg International, coll. "Facts and representations", 1992, 2 vol.

To cite this article

Pierre-Yves BEAUREPAIRE, " The Protocols of the Elders of Zion »

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