Researching the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: Do We Know the Russian Author of the Forgery?
Since the early 1920s, the question of who, and when, created the Protocols has intrigued scholars and concerned those battling this document. In line with testimony presented at the 1934 Berne Trial, and especially thanks to Norman Cohn’s influential book Warrant for Genocide, Russian secret agents in Paris are commonly seen as creators of a French prototext and, in a convoluted plot, disseminators of its Russian-language translation. Will Eisner’s graphic novel The Plot and, most recently, Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetary, are based on this theory. Since the 1990s, the Italian Slavist Cesare G. De Michelis has put forward an alternative version regarding authorship of the forgery: he argues that an “original” French text never existed, and that a Russian-language work was first produced by ultra-right activists associated with the southern region of Bessarabia.
To date, neither of these two principal theories can be either validated or dismissed. As Henryk shows in his presentation, the evidence used to determine authorship has been very limited, and, until the last two decades, little was done to enlarge it. Yet, as is clear from recent research, “reopening” the inquiry – reconstructing the historical context, taking a fresh look at documents and at witness testimony– can be surprisingly productive and may well let us determine who was to blame for the notorious instrument of worldwide antisemitic propaganda.
Sponsored by: Judaic Studies, CREES