Sir John Retcliffe
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Sir John Retcliffe was the pseudonym of the German writer Hermann Ottomar Friedrich Goedsche (12 February 1815 – 8 November 1878) primarily remembered for his antisemitism and the extent to which his fiction indirectly contributed to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Life and work
Goedsche was born in Trachenberg, Silesia, then in the Kingdom of Prussia, now part of Poland. In 1848 he worked for the Neuen Preußischen (Kreuz-)Zeitung, together with prominent Germans like Theodor Fontane, Otto von Bismarck and George Hesekiel. In 1853 he travelled as a journalist to Turkey.
Goedsche worked in the genre of historical romance novel, as typified by Walter Scott, Charles Sealsfield and Theodor Mügge, but he was also influenced by authors like Eugène Sue, Alexandre Dumas, père and George Hesekiel. Some of his works are critical of British colonialism. He was openly antisemitic and, although adopting an English pseudonym, he was a dyed-in-the-wool Prussian chauvinist who held a profound aversion against England and everything British. His political views on the "perfidious Albion" are clearly expressed in his novels.
Goedsche worked as a postal employee, but in reality he was an agent provocateur for the Prussian secret police. He forged letters which were used as evidence to frame democratic leaders. In 1849 he was caught after forging evidence in the prosecution of political reformer Benedict Waldeck and had to leave the postal service.
Role in fabricating Jewish conspiracy
In his 1868 book Biarritz, Goedsche plagiarized a book by the French satirist Maurice Joly, The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, and made an addition: the chapter "At the Jewish Cemetery in Prague" described a secret rabbinical cabal, Council of Representatives of The Twelve Tribes of Israel which meets in the cemetery at midnight for one of their centennial meetings. They report on the progress of their long-term conspiracy to establish world domination. Among the methods to achieve this goal are the acquisition of landed property, the transformation of craftsmen into industrial workers, the infiltration into high public offices, the control of the press, etc. The chairman Levit expresses at the end of the meeting the desire to be the kings of the world in 100 years. This fictional "Rabbi's Speech" was frequently quoted later as an authentic episode and invoked as a proof of the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In Nazi Germany the chapter was re-printed independently in many editions.
To portray the meeting, Goedsche borrowed heavily from the scene in the novel Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas, père in which Alessandro Cagliostro and company plot the affair of the diamond necklace, and likewise borrowed Joly's Dialogues as the outcome of the meeting.
After Goedsche's death, an extract from the chapter containing his fictional "secret cabal" circulated in the Russian Empire. In the 1890s, Goedsche's version was in turn plagiarized by Matvei Golovinski and adapted into what came to be known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
- Der letzte Wäringer. Historisch politische Novelle aus den letzten Tagen Constantinopels (1835, as Theodor Armin)
- Vaterländische Romaneske aus den Zeiten Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossas (3 volumes, 1836, with Burg Frankenstein)
- Die Sage vom Ottilien-Stein (1836)
- Die steinernen Tänzer. Romantische Sage aus Schlesiens Vorzeit (2 volumes, 1837)
- Nächte. Romantische Skizzen aus dem Leben und der Zeit (2 volumes, 1838–1839)
- Schlesischer Sagen-, Historien- und Legendenschatz (1839–1840)
- Mysterien der Berliner Demokratie (1848, as Willibald Piersig)
- Enthüllungen (1849, anonymously)
- Die Russen nach Constantinopel! Ein Beitrag zur orientalischen Frage (1854)
- Sebastobol. Historisch-politischer Roman aus der Gegenwart (4 volumes, 1855–1857)
- Nena Sahib, oder: Die Empörung in Indien. Historisch-politischer Roman 1858-1859
- Villafranca, oder: Die Kabinette und die Revolutionen. Historisch-politischer Roman aus der Gegenwart (3 volumes, 1860–1862)
- Biarritz. Historisch-politischer Roman (3 volumes, 1868)
- Um die Weltherrschaft (sequel to Biarritz, 5 volumes, 1877–1879)
- Keren, Daniel, Commentary on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, 10 February 1993. Republished as accompanying introduction to The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion translated by Victor E Marsden. The relevant part is on page 4 of the pdf file.]
- "The Jew in the modern world: a documentary history", by Paul R. Mendes-Flohr, Jehuda Reinharz, 1995, ISBN 019507453X, a footnote at p. 363
- Cohn, Norman (1967). Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. London. Excerpts dealing a. o. with Retcliffe
- Klotz, Volker (1979). Abenteuer-Romane. Sue, Dumas, Ferry, Retcliffe, May, Verne. Munich: Hanser. ISBN 3-446-12690-2.
- Märtin, Ralf-Peter. "Wunschpotentiale. Geschichte und Gesellschaft in Abenteuerromanen von Retcliffe, Armand, May. Königstein/Taunus: Hain 1983". Literatur in der Geschichte, Geschichte in der Literatur: pp. 10. ISBN 3-445-02302-6.
- Neuhaus, Volker (1980). Der zeitgeschichtliche Sensationsroman in Deutschland 1855-1878. "Sir John Retcliffe" und seine Schule. Berlin: Schmidt. ISBN 3-503-01628-7.