‘The Plots of 120 Years Ago Have Been Realized’: Anger in Italy as Publishing House Issues New Edition of Notorious Antisemitic Fabrication
by Ben Cohen
Italy’s Jewish community has expressed disgust at the publication of a new edition of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an antisemitic document originally fabricated by the Russian Tsar’s secret police in 1903, which is available through the online store of Feltrinelli, one of the country’s leading publishers.
The publisher’s blurb promoting the latest edition made no mention of the dubious provenance of the “Protocols,” which has been cited across more than a century by the German Third Reich, successive Arab regimes and western neo-Nazis and white supremacists as proof of a secret Jewish conspiracy to control world affairs.
“From the beginning they have been branded as a brilliant fake and there are many reasons for and against, especially from those who wish to bury them permanently, thereby contributing to their incredible survival,” read the caption that accompanies the book.
The promotional text then went on to claim that whether the “Protocols” had been fabricated or not was an irrelevant consideration because its predictions had turned out to be correct.
“Whether they are true or false no longer matters, because these mysterious protocols, even out of their time, have proved to be prophetic in a secular sense,” it continued. “After nearly 120 years, many of those plots, then only vague, seem to be largely realized: history confirms that the recorded notes which we present in a new and revised translation show that they were not pious fantasies.”
The latest Italian edition of the “Protocols,” which carries a large Star of David on its cover, has been issued by Segno Editions, a publisher that bills itself as a “small, independent house specializing in religious publications” and a “leader in the Christian publishing sector.” Its books can be purchased through the online store of Feltrinelli, which is known as one of Europe’s leading publishers of left-wing politics and culture.
In a Twitter post, the Jewish community of Rome expressed incredulity at Feltrinelli’s promotion of one of the most notorious antisemitic falsehoods in the modern era.
“Hey Feltrinelli, pay attention! Do you really think that the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ — a key antisemitic text — can be presented without a note highlighting its false character?” the group said. “Conspiracy theories are favored to the detriment of proper historical analysis.”
In a separate tweet, Milena Santerini — Italy’s national coordinator for countering antisemitism — remarked that it “is truly incredible, Feltrinelli, that such a dangerous book can be promoted with a text saying that the ‘Protocols’ could be true or false, without warning that [the book] is a fake, and of the uses made of it throughout history.”
Feltrinelli caused further anger on Thursday, when it responded to concerns by saying that it was not responsible for book descriptions written by other publishers and then posted on its online store. “The description of the volume is the exclusive competence of the publishing house that issued it, and not of the sales platforms where it is available,” the publisher stated.
“Can a publishing house with such a history limit itself to the answer that the description is not within ‘its competence’, even when blatant falsehoods are being propagated that have already caused deeply painful tragedies?” asked Italian MP Michele Anzaldi, who sits on the Italian parliament’s culture committee.
Edizioni Segno later confirmed that it would fix the description to make clear that the “Protocols” were fabricated, claiming that the offending blurb was an oversight.
However, Cristina Mantero, the head of the publishing house, appeared to undermine that statement by telling newspaper La Repubblica that the purpose of the new edition of the “Protocols” — a project initiated by her late father — was to test whether its projections for the future had come to pass.
“We did not want to get into the merits of truthfulness or falsehood. What interested the editor — Piero Mantero, my father — was to see whether the predictions made 120 years ago had materialized,” she said.
Bet Magazine Mosaico, an online Italian Jewish publication, reported on Friday that it had searched Edizioni Segno’s back catalog and found another antisemitic book on a similar theme. Titled “The Shadow of Samael,” the book was categorized with the label “freemasonry.” Published in 2018, it purports to examine “the latest developments regarding the Jewish question, with a focus on the power structure that from time immemorial has conditioned political events and consequently our own lives.”