Talk by Dr Michael Hagemeister on the so-called protocols of the elders of Zion

by Stephen Hewitt

In the evening of Tuesday 4 November 2014 in the Alison Richard building in West Road, Cambridge, Dr Michael Hagemeister gave a talk to about 30 people titled "The protocols of the elders of Zion The facts surrounding a fiction". This was followed by comments and questions from Dr Reinhard Markner and then audience questions.

Dr Michael Hagemeister & Dr Reinhard Markner in Cambridge on 4 November 2014
Dr Michael Hagemeister (left) & Dr Reinhard Markner speaking in Cambridge on 4 November 2014

Introducing the talk, Professor Sir Richard Evans referred to "Warrant for genocide" by Norman Cohen and a novel by Umberto Eco. He introduced Hagemeister as a specialist in Russian philosophy and modern Russian intellectual history teaching at European University of Viadrina, Frankfurt am Oder. He introduced Reinhard Markner as also working on the protocols, and teaching at Innsbruck.

Hagemeister said that the approach taken by most of those who wished to debunk the protocols was to attempt to reveal the true author and his agenda.

Not long after the document's arrival in the West in the early 1920s "or even 1919 as we have learned today", the story was presented that it was the work of Pyotr Rachkovsky the head of the foreign branch of the Okhrana in Paris and Matvei Golovinski.

"These creators of a French proto-text were characterised as cunning secret agents, fanatical anti-semites, sinister reactionaries and this Gothic story has lost little of its currency today."

Hagemeister said that Will Eisner's "The Plot" and Umberto Eco's "The Prague Cemetery" are "still" based on this story and this is the story also in "Warrant for genocide" by Norman Cohen.

The story was embellished over time and became "canonical" with the famous Berne trial in the mid 1930s.

"Unfortunately however it is not based on any credible evidence whatsoever and most of the claims connected with it are demonstrably false. This was in fact already apparent to the Bern trial's chief protagonists. Boris Nicolaevsky, eminent historian and one of the coordinators on the side of Jewish plaintiffs, freely admitted in his correspondence that it was a political trial and not so much concerned with historical accuracy as with the fight against anti-semitism. The myth of a Jewish conspiracy was responded to with a counter myth, a conspiracy of perfidious secret agents and anti-semites which is no less fanciful than the one it aims to oppose."

Instead Hagemeister said that Cesare De Michelis has shown that the text was written in Russia between April 1902 and August 1903 by unknown author(s), and that there likely never was a French proto-text, hence his book title "Il manoscritto inesistente".