The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
By Will Eisner
Introduction by Umberto Eco
W. W. Norton, 2005, 148 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - September 5, 2012
Two vicious lies about Jews and Judaism resulted in increased anti-Semitism and the butchering of innocent Jews. One is the Blood Libel, an ancient accusation that Jews need to ingest Christian blood as part of the Passover meal. The second, the subject of this book, is more recent. It contends that there is an international plot orchestrated by Jewish leaders, the "Elders of Zion," and carried out by Jewish bankers, newspapers, and Jews who infiltrated government positions to seize control of the world, lead and manipulate it, and destroy Christianity. Anti-Semites use a forgery called "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which purports to be the blueprint composed by Jewish leaders to take over the world. The Protocols are still being printed. Will Eisner describes the extraordinary history of this forgery in "The Plot," in an easy to understand powerful graphic book.
The history of the Protocol begins in Russia. Nicholas II was appointed tsar of his country in 1894 when Russia was seething with poverty and unrest. A revolution was brewing. To deflect his people's anger, Nicholas supported pogroms against Jews. But he needed something to amplify the masses' anger against the Jews.
A Russian lived in France, Mathieu Golovinski, who invented false statistics and bogus facts to support his articles in newspapers. In 1898, Russian officials paid him to create a book supposedly written by Jews who planned to conquer the world. Golovinski lazily exploited a book written by Maurice Joly in 1864 called "The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu." Joly wrote his book as an attack against the French emperor Napoleon III. Joly revealed what he considered the emperor's diabolical plan to snatch power from the French and Germans. Remarkably, Golovinski copied Joly's diatribes almost verbatim, but replaced Jews for Napoleon and paraphrased Joly's wording. When one sets Golovinski's paragraphs next to those composed by Joly, as Will Eisner does in this volume, even a non-expert can easily see that Golovinski repeatedly plagiarized Joly's harangue.
The Russians published Golovinski's volume in 1905 just after Russia's embarrassing defeat in its war against Japan. Nicolas and the Russian leadership hoped that the forgery would enrage the Russian people and divert their attention from their dire economic situation at home and their shameful defeat abroad. The book had its desired effect for awhile. It postponed the revolution until 1917 when the Russian people revolted and killed the tsar and his family.
But the Protocol developed a life of its own. People distributed it widely in other countries and many people believed its lies. In 1920, the prestigious London Times revealed in a long and reasoned article that it was a forgery, but anti-Semites continued to use it to feed their unreasoned hatred. In 1921, a man discovered Joly's original composition and showed it to a reporter of the London Times who saw how Golovinski copied the diatribe against Napoleon III in page after page and changed the attack to the Jews. The Times again publicized that the book is a forgery. There was a trial about the fabrication in Switzerland in 1934 which exposed the Protocol as "ridiculous nonsense." Both revelations had little effect. Hitler used the Protocol in 1921 and for many years thereafter, including in his Mein Kampf. The book was translated into English and sixteen other languages in 1922. It sold over a half million copies in America alone in that year. Henry Ford ran a series in his Dearborn Independent newspaper using the Protocol. He recanted only after being threatened with a libel suit.
Unfortunately, this forgery, which Will Eisner calls "an old vampire," is still being published, studied, and accepted as true in many countries, most notably in Arab lands, including being republished by Hamas. It is used by some American college students. Like a vampire, it doesn't die despite proofs that it is a lie.