The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Protokoly sionskikh mudretsov) were first published by devotional author Sergei Nilus in the second edition of his 1905 book Velikoe v malom (The Great in the Small). Nilus had previously published other dubious documents, including the “conversations” between landowner Motovilov and Seraphim of Sarov, which were instrumental in the solemn canonization of Seraphim in 1903, in ceremonies led by Emperor Nicholas II.

The Protocols resurfaced in 1917 and quickly spread across the globe, fueling anti-Semitic and anti-Bolshevik fervor. Their authenticity was challenged in public trials, most notably in Berne in 1934-1935. However The Protocols remain a staple of anti-Semitic ideology throughout the world and continue to be published, especially in Russia and Eastern Europe and in the Arab world.

Adapting an image from the third “protocol,” some editions represent the interwoven networks of international Jews and Bolsheviks as a serpent twisting around Europe. But conspiracy requires counter-conspiracy: in prefaces and addenda, many of the editions scrupulously document their own origin, from the alleged congress of “the Elders of Zion” in 1897 to Nilus’s first publication of the protocols in 1905 and to its global spread in the wake of the Russian revolutions of 1917.

“The Protocols” with Preface and Explanatory Notes

London: “The Britons”, 1934. Ludwig Rosenberger Library of Judaica

Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion

[s.l.: s.n., n.d.]. Ludwig Rosenberger Library of Judaica