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Religion: Egregious Protocols

3 minute read

In Switzerland four years ago a book went on trial—the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion—in a suit brought and won by the Swiss Jewish Community against two booksellers (TIME, Nov. 12, 1934). This notorious work, first published in Russia 33 years ago and circulated more or less surreptitiously throughout the western world since then, purported to expose a Jewish plot to destroy Christian civilization, dominate the earth. The Protocols, as the Swiss court found, have been repeatedly proved a fraud.

Much of the material in them was first published in 1865 in a French political satire directed against Napoleon III. The allegation that the 24 sections of the work (dealing with specific items in the “plot”) were drawn up by members of the first World Zionist Congress in 1897 was disproved by internal evidence. Most likely the Protocols were concocted by Tsarist secret police at the turn of the century. In the light of the political absurdities, the economic fantasies, the contradictory strategies outlined in the “plot,” only the most naïve could sincerely believe in it.

Yet in the past two months Rev. Charles Edward Coughlin, rabble-rousing radio priest, has published the Protocols in his weekly Social Justice. Brushing aside the matter of their authenticity, Father Coughlin repeatedly stressed their “factuality,” quoted Henry Ford (a onetime believer in the Protocols) : “They fit in with what is going on.” Father Coughlin’s point, buttered with many a some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jews disclaimer of antiSemitism, has been that Jews are to blame for Communism, that the aims of the Protocols closely resemble those of Communism—and of the New Deal, the C. I. O., numerous other Coughlin bogies.

Last week a fellow priest went to bat against the authenticity of the Protocols and, inferentially, against Jew-Baiter Coughlin. He was Rev. Michael Joseph (“Mike”) Ahern, jovial, witty Jesuit, head of the geology department at Weston College near Boston. On his Sunday radio Catholic Truth Period, Father Ahern drew upon European Catholic sources to demolish the Protocols.

He closed his talk with a quotation from a recent talk by Pope Pius XI which, although published in European Catholic papers, has not been publicized in the U. S.* Said the Pope: “It is not possible for Christians to take part in antiSemitism. We fully acknowledge that everybody has the right to defend himself, protect himself against whatever threatens his legitimate interests. But anti-Semitism is inadmissible. We are all Semites spiritually.”

*According to Belgian Le Soir, the Pope wept while denouncing anti-Semitism—a fact which the Vatican would neither confirm nor deny. Lately the Brooklyn Tablet has taken the U. S. secular press to task for reporting the Holy Father’s occasional tears, on the ground that such reports are meant to “confuse” U. S. readers.

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