In my first Armchair Travel entry I noted wistfully that the books of the generation that fought World War II are showing up at rummage sales as they pass away. For example, there’s an edition of “War and Peace” published in 1942 with a map of Russia inside the front cover showing Napoleon’s progress in 1812 and one inside the back cover showing Hitler’s progress.
Another book that was popular with the WWII generation that I see quite a bit is “Der Fuehrer” by Conrad Heiden. It’s an excellent biography of Hitler that explains the conditions in Germany that enabled him to rise to power.
But Heiden, who fought the Nazis in the streets in the 1920s and had to emigrate from Germany, also explains the origin and development of one of the vilest bits of propaganda ever created: “The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion,” which purports to be a plan for world domination hatched by a group of rabbis meeting in a Swiss cemetery in 1897.
“We shall create unrest, struggle and hate in the whole of Europe and thence in other continents… Unremittingly we shall poison the relations between the peoples and states of all countries. We shall stultify, seduce, ruin the youth. We shall not stick at bribery, treachery, treason, as long as they serve the realization of our plans.
“If any state dares to resist us; if its neighbors make common cause with it against us, we shall unleash a world war. etc. etc.”
In the summer of 1917 an unknown man walked into the rooms of Alfred Rosenberg, then an architecture student in Moscow, left the book on a table and walked out. Rosenberg was later to become the principal racial theorist of the Nazi Party and after Hitler’s invasion of Russia he became Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories and supervised atrocities on an enormous scale.
Rosenberg accepted the forged “Protocols” as gospel and they were a cornerstone of Nazi propaganda. The irony, of course, is that they outline the Nazi program to a “T”.
Heiden explains that most of the text of this work was originally written in 1864 by a French lawyer named Maurice Joly as a satire of the dictator Napleon III. It was entitled “Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu.” Joly was captured by Napoleon’s police and spent 15 months in prison.
Later the Ochrana, the secret police in Russia under the tsar, wanted yet another pretext for violent persecution of the Jews. “They wanted to frighten the tsar and drive him to bloodshed,” Heiden explains. “To this end they persuaded him that the Jews of the whole world had devised a secret conspiracy to achieve domination, first over Russia, then over the whole world.”
The Ochrana took out the parts of Joly’s work that were attributed to Montesquieu, the advocate of democracy, and kept the parts attributed to Machiavelli, the conniving totalitarian. They also lifted part of a book written in 1868 by Hermann Godsche, under the name of Sir John Retcliffe the Younger, called “Biarritz” about twelve rabbis “from all corners of the earth” meeting in a cemetery in Prague and chortling (in Chaldean, no less) about how, through its mighty bankers and the power of gold, Judah was going to conquer the world.
The Ochrana also cleverly tied in an actual Jewish congress that met in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and founded the Jewish Zionist Movement. So in the final draft the graveyard where the rabbis meet is moved to Basel.
I mention this because this document is still showing up in our own time and a surprising number of gullible souls still believe in its authenticity. It is also used by militant Islamists as anti-Israeli propaganda. Heny Ford once published excerpts from “The Protocols” in the Dearborn Independent, but he later admitted the work was a fraud and apologized to the Jewish community.
As recently as the 1980s I saw excerpts from “The Protocols” in some weird full-page advertisements that some daffy lady was paying for in Foster’s Daily Democrat in Dover, New Hampshire.
So tell your kids about this in case this particular piece of putrescence should float to the surface in the future.