“Warrant for Genocide: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is Professor Milton Shain’s topic for UCT’s Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA)’s Great Text / Big Questions lecture on 22 April.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has been described as the world’s biggest literary forgery and yet, despite intense research into this infamous text, some still believe it is evidence of a Jewish plot for world domination.
First published in Russian in 1903 The Protocols has appeared in many versions and has been used as an antisemitic, anti-communist and political propaganda tool in Russia, the USA and Nazi Germany. In the first English version, which appeared in the USA in 1919, the word Jew was replaced throughout by Bolshevik. According to Shain The Protocols are at this time “widely available in the Arab world”.
It has been claimed that The Protocols were originally stolen from a secret Jewish organisation in the late 19th Century. However the so-called original has never been uncovered. According to much research, The Protocols are a forgery, most of which was plagiarised from a book of fiction by French political satirist Maurice Joly ‘Dialogue aux Enfers entre Montesquieu et Machiavel’ (“A Dialogue in Hell Between Montesquieu and Machiavelli”) first published in 1864, and translated into Russian in 1872.
Professor Milton Shain teaches Modern Jewish History and is Director of UCT’s Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research. He has written and edited several books on South African Jewish history, South African politics, and the history of antisemitism. Among them is the prize-winningThe Roots of Antisemitism in South Africa and The Jews in South Africa, An Illustrated History, co-authored with Richard Mendelsohn. His most recent book Zakor v’Makor: Place and Displacement in Jewish History and Memory, co-edited by David Cesarani and Tony Kushner, was runner-up in the ‘Anthology and Collections’ category of the National Jewish Book Award in the United States for 2009. In addition to his many books Professor Shain has published numerous academic articles and is the recipient of a number of awards, including Fellowships at the International Centre for the University Teaching of Jewish Civilization at University of Jerusalem, and Yale University.