Out of the Archives: “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” on Trial

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by Kevin Schlottmann, Levy Processing Archivist, Center for Jewish History

The pamphlet “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semitic forgery that outlined alleged plans for Jewish world domination, appeared with disturbing regularity throughout the 20th century, and unfortunately is sometimes cited even today as an authentic document. 

The work has been thoroughly debunked many times, perhaps most famously at the so-called Bern trial in Switzerland. In 1933, the Swiss Jewish community sued the Swiss Nazi party under the obscenity laws for distributing an edition of the “Protocols.” The trial hinged on whether the “Protocols” were real or a forgery. In 1935, after weeks of testimony and multiple expert reports, the judge found the defendants guilty, and specifically noted in his decision that he was convinced that the “Protocols” were a forgery.

Center partner the Leo Baeck Institute holds materials related to this famous trial, including the thorough report of the court-appointed expert, Swiss writer Carl Albert Loosli, and transcripts of testimony by the many witnesses, who included Chaim Weizmann and chocolate manufacturer Theodor Tobler. For more information about these materials, see the Guide to the Bern Trial on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion Collection.

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