UW News

January 18, 2013

Documents that changed the world: The fraudulent ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’

UW News

cover of the fraudulent "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is the subject of the latest Documents that Changed World podcast from Joe Janes of the UW Information School.

Not all documents that change the world are good — some are despicable, and leave hatred and bigotry in their wake. Such is the case with the latest entry in Joe Janes’ ongoing Documents that Changed the World podcast series, the 1900-era anti-Semitic manifesto “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

In the podcasts, Janes, professor in the UW Information School, explores the origin and often-evolving meaning of historical documents both famous and less known. UW Today presents these periodically, and all of the podcasts are available on iTunes.

“Its form is quite clever, really,” Janes wrote of the Protocols. “It purports to be transcripts of 24 lectures, or protocols, delivered in secret meetings of the Elders of Zion, a Jewish cabal bent on global domination.”

Industrialist Henry Ford was a fan of the work, Janes noted, sponsoring a massive printing and running a serialized version in his Dearborn newspaper.

“What it really is, is a fraud, and a plagiarized fraud at that, meant to deceive. It was exposed as a forgery in 1921 by the Times of London and ruled a forgery by a Swiss Court in 1935, which of course had no effect whatsoever on its acceptance as legitimate.”

And how did it “change the world”?

“I think the ‘change’ here — apart from possibly facilitating some of what happened during the Nazi period (perniciously undermining people’s humanity by making it easier for them to look the other way) — was also to give a focal point, a touchstone, for modern anti-Semitism,” Janes wrote in an email.

Janes continues to research and record new installments. The podcasts also are available at the iSchool website and on iTunes, where the series is approaching its 22,000th download.