An in-depth interview by Lenny Giteck, publisher and editor
Perhaps history’s most dangerous and destructive piece of antisemitic propaganda is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an approximately 150-page work of fiction that generations of Jew-haters have believed is true. Many still do.
Here is how the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum describes the book: “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times. Its lies about Jews, which have been repeatedly discredited, continue to circulate today, especially on the Internet. The individuals and groups who have used The Protocols are all linked by a common purpose: to spread hatred of Jews.”
The basic thesis of The Protocols is that there exists a secret international conspiracy by Jews to control the world. As noted above, The Protocols has been thoroughly investigated and unequivocally shown to be a fraud.
To learn more about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, we spoke with Mark Weitzman, co-author (with Steven L. Jacobs) of the book Dismantling the Big Lie: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, published in 2003. In 2007, Weitzman was a winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Antisemitism, the Generic Hatred: Essays in Memory of Simon Wiesenthal.
Currently, Weitzman is Director of Government Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He is the senior NGO member of the US delegation at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. And he serves as Vice-President of the Association of Holocaust Organizations.
We published Part One of the interview with Mark Weitzman — about the story behind The Protocols —- in the previous edition of AntisemitismExposed.org. To read it, click here. Below is the second and final part of the interview.
Has The Protocols of the Elders of Zion actually instigated physical violence against Jews?
I’ll put it this way: The Protocols has been sort of an incubator for Jew-hate. Obviously, modern-day antisemitism and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories existed before The Protocols — but they essentially existed in a religious sense, in Christian replacement theology.
Also, antisemitism existed in an economic sense because of the alleged linkage of Jews and communism. Karl Marx claimed Jews were rich bankers and plutocrats who worshipped money; later, Jews were blamed for communism, which was called Judeo-Bolshevism by the Nazis and even some people today.
However, the idea of a secret Jewish conspiracy trying to take over the world politically is rather novel to The Protocols. Once The Protocols came out, it really became the underpinning of all sorts of antisemitic manifestations and tropes.
Did the Nazis believe in The Protocols?
In 1934, there was an important trial in Berne, Switzerland, about The Protocols. A German functionary was the leading defense witness in favor of The Protocols — in other words, claiming the book was genuine — but he was never a member of the Nazi party.
Interestingly, the Nazis kind of kept their hands off the trial, because they felt the case actually showed that The Protocols was a forgery. It demonstrated the weakness of the claim of authenticity of The Protocols. Even the Nazis decided they couldn’t rely on that for their propaganda. By 1940 or 1941, scholars have shown, the Nazis were not waving The Protocols around.
Still, the basic idea The Protocols created and promulgated, indirectly at least, was a worldview that did contribute to Nazi ideology and propaganda. After the Nazis stopped actively using The Protocols, they went back to promoting even cruder ideas, such as the blood libel and Jews raping non-Jewish women.
This was evident in their propaganda films — The Eternal Jew, for example, with hordes of rats pouring out of sewers, representing the Jews throughout Europe. The Jews were portrayed as filthy vermin that carried pestilence with them.
In your view, can one follow a direct path from The Protocols to the gas chambers of Nazi Germany?
The Protocols never laid out a plan, never publicly talked about genocide or anything like that. The Nazis always argued they simply were fighting in self-defense, fighting against the Jews’ attempt to subjugate non-Jews. Nazis started out supposedly combatting that Jewish plot, but they later took it further in targeting all Jews for death… since according to them, every Jew was by definition a mortal enemy of the German people. This is how they attempted to legitimize genocide.
Jews are a tiny fraction of the world’s population. How could anyone seriously think such a small group could take over the world?
As I’ve said, that’s part of the genius of The Protocols. Not that the Jews were going to overtly take over the world, but that they were going to use sinister, hidden levers to manipulate world leaders.
Before he went on his deadly rampage on Oct. 27, 2018, the Pittsburgh shooter talked about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society being responsible for the influx of nonwhite immigrants coming into the U.S. Almost a year later, the Poway shooter also spouted anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. It appears they were radicalized by certain social media platforms, where The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is ubiquitous.
The Protocols is still being printed, sold, and read in a number of nations — especially Arab countries. I believe it also has a following in India, Japan, and China, among other places. I’ve read that in some cases, The Protocols has been used as “inspirational material” in college and university business schools.
In certain societies where there’s been no Jewish presence, or virtually no Jewish presence, the portrait of the Jews in The Protocols has been held up as a positive example of individuals who succeed against all odds. The Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish organizations have tried very hard to fight against this, but there’s no question there is a market for it.
Obviously, it’s been extremely political in the Middle East. For example, the original Hamas charter quoted directly from The Protocols. They changed that a few years ago because of the blowback they received, but for a long time The Protocols was blatantly front and center in Hamas doctrine. That gives you an idea where they were coming from.
I guess the persistence of The Protocols should not be all that surprising, since Hitler’s seminal work Mein Kampf also continues to be published and is widely available.
Correct. And I should note that Mein Kampf has now reverted to the public domain. This is another example where the Internet has pretty much changed everything. Now Hitler’s book is available for anyone to read right on their desktop.
Are we living in a time especially conducive to people believing in The Protocols?
When people don’t believe any authority figures… that’s when The Protocols flower. The Protocols tells people they should not believe authority figures because they’re secretly controlled by bad guys — and these bad guys are Jews who are out to rule the world.
For example, the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and similar right-wing fascist groups have long called the U.S. government ZOG, or Zionist-Occupied Government, meaning that the President and any federal institutions that you see are not really running the country. They’re just doing the bidding of the Jews. Sometimes they use the term JOG, Jewish-Occupied Government.
It is no coincidence that the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6… their idea was that our elected government is secretly controlled by others, a notion that definitely can be traced back to The Protocols.
I also should mention that a lot of this stuff is being spouted today in certain African American circles, beginning with Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam. They definitely are embracing and promoting Protocols-type theories.
Even though almost every truly responsible, democratic government that I know of has condemned The Protocols, it has become kind of a byword. People talk about Protocols-type behavior, Protocols-type literature, and so forth. Unfortunately, conspiracy thinking is thriving nowadays, and that’s the fertile soil in which The Protocols flourishes.
In the past year alone, the FBI tweeted a link to The Protocols, which they said was an automated response to an inquiry but provided no context or explanation of the text. Shortly after the January storming of the US Capitol, a guard there was suspended after a copy of The Protocols was seen at a security checkpoint.
You say every responsible government. What about Iran?
I wouldn’t exactly characterize the ayatollah regime as a responsible, democratic government. Iran’s demonization of the Jews and Israel definitely has a Protocols-type ring to it.
Jews have been dealing with hatred for 2,000 years. Today there seems to be a sort of resignation in some Jewish quarters: “Antisemitism is our fate in life. We’re never going to get rid of it.”
I think there’s been a certain shock factor in the past few years. Jews in the United States — and I’ll include myself in this regard — who grew up in the latter part of the 20th century really led a kind of sheltered existence. Life was good for American Jews. Yes, there were specific antisemitic places — some country clubs that Jews could not get into, for example. So Jews bought the land next door and built their own country clubs, often bigger and better.
In any event, I think it was a huge shock to the Jewish community when events like the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre started to happen. We didn’t expect them and we were not prepared for them. The incidents of antisemitic violence that have taken place over the past few years… we just didn’t see them coming.
Update from Mark Weitzman:
The wave of violent and rhetorical antisemitism unleashed in the U.S. in the past two weeks is shocking and unprecedented. There is no question in my mind that it has been stoked in part by antisemitic conspiracy theories spread particularly through social media, which have spurred and legitimized Jew hatred here.
It has gone far beyond any pretense of criticizing Israel’s action and policies; now Jews in the U.S. have been targeted simply because they are Jews. Without a doubt, conspiracy theories such as The Protocols have been used to inflame and justify those hate crimes.
You’ve spoken about The Protocols reaching the West after the Russian Revolution. How did it reach America?
We have Henry Ford to thank for that. Ford was a staunch admirer of Hitler’s and an ardent antisemite. The same way he brought mass production of automobiles to the United States, he also brought mass production of Jew-hate.
What do you mean?
To make sure The Protocols was widely read, Ford serialized the work in his paper the Dearborn Independent. The series was called “The International Jew: The World’s Problem.” He then published a four-volume set of pamphlets called “The International Jew,” which his organization handed out for free.
The Ford connection gave the serialization and pamphlets the immense stature and authority he had in the country. Henry Ford has always been lionized in America as a capitalist hero. Charles Lindbergh was also one of America’s great heroes. Unfortunately, both had a fatal flaw: They were Nazi sympathizers and rabid antisemites.
A historical note: In 1927, Ford ended up being forced to apologize because Louis Marshall — a renowned Jewish attorney and fighter for civil rights at the time — threatened to organize a boycott against the Ford Motor Company.
By the way, I want to make it clear that Henry Ford’s family did not inherit those antisemitic attitudes. Members of the family today, and I believe in previous generations as well, have been totally opposed to Jew-hatred.
As a matter of fact, from 2014 to 2017, when he announced he was retiring, the Ford Motor Company had a Jewish CEO: Mark Fields.
That concludes the second and final part of our in-depth interview with Mark Weitzman.
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