Antisemitism is, in many ways, the original conspiracy theory. The idea that a tiny group of people is plotting within its ranks to take over the world, the bizarre legends about their supposed origins and the violence of the paranoid people who believe these tales are all hallmarks of both antisemitism and conspiracy theories. Around the same time as antisemitism’s rise, many of the same bitter souls who attacked Jewish people began an obsession with the Lodge. To this day antisemitism and anti-Masonic ideas go hand in hand. Here is a look at the connections between antisemitism and anti-Masonry.
The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion
In 1903 a Russian newspaper published what it claimed were the secret minutes of a meeting of the shadowy leaders of Judaism, the Learned Elders or Sages or Zion. In these minutes a sinister plot to take control of all the media, banks and governments of the world was laid out. The book became proof positive for antisemites around the world that the Jews were plotting to take over.
The book, it was revealed in the following years, was a forgery produced by the Russian Secret Police, and was largely plagiarized from an earlier French text condemning Napoleon III’s ambitions. In later years conspiracy theorists have said that the only real problem with the text is that it hides who the real culprits are—Freemasons. Indeed, the earliest promoters of the fraud claimed that the Jewish leaders in the text were also Masons, and that it had been stolen from a “nest of Freemasonry.” This began the association in the minds of hatemongers between Jewish people and Freemasons.
The Nazi Holocaust
One fervent believer in the Protocol’s veracity was Adolf Hitler, and during the Nazi Party’s rule both Jews and Masons (among many others) were targets for extermination. It is well-known that more than 6,000,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but it is less well-known that perhaps as many as 200,000 Masons were killed in the Nazi death camps. The Lodge has always held tolerance to be one of our highest values, and from our earliest days Jewish members have been welcomed into brotherhood alongside Christians, Muslims and other faiths. The bigotry and obsession with racial purity which motivated the Nazis led them to hunt down Masons, believing the Lodge to be part of a mythical Jewish conspiracy.
Interestingly enough, many of the same conspiracy theorists who believe that the Lodge is up to some sinister business also deny the truth of the Holocaust. They will claim that there were no death camps, only internment camps, and that any deaths were purely accidental. This hideous lie is told to give an alibi to criminal warlords whose paranoia around the Lodge led them to commit history’s greatest crime.
Islamist and Ba’athist Regimes in the Middle East
While Masons thrive in secular countries of the Middle East such as Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Egypt, the more repressive regimes in the region have largely banned Freemasonry. The most common justification for the suppression of the Lodge is the belief that Masons are Zionists—that they support the State of Israel. Saddam Hussein had Masons hunted and killed, and the Islamist leaders of groups like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and al Qaeda have all claimed the Masons are plotting for Israel. The Lodge, of course, takes no position on political matters, and there is a wide variety of opinions about Israel and her policies among Masons. Antisemitism has always found the Lodge a useful scapegoat, and our value of tolerance makes enemies among the hateful and obscene.