WATCH: 10 Fake Documents That Changed History


History is shaped by events and by people, but did you know that history has been changed by outright lies?

The following video, which was featured on Educate, Inspire, Change, highlights 10 of the most influential fake documents in history. They range from ancient to recent, but each was created to mislead and to impact people and governments.

Here is a summary of each of the documents and its effects. Chilling!

#10. Protocols of the Elders of Zion: First published in Russia in 1903, it recalled the worst anti-Jewish beliefs since the Middle Ages. It supposedly described a Zionist Plan to take over the world. Hitler, as you can imagine, thought it was fabulous. What’s worse is that Henry Ford was a believer. And there are still plenty of places on the web where you can find the hate filled writing of its followers.

#9. Memoirs of Mr. Hempher: This book first appeared in Turkey in 1868. It is a fake autobiography of a supposed British spy who was sent into the Muslim world to destroy the faith. First he tried to use “alcohol and fornication,” but when that failed, he created a new kind of Islam called Wahhabism to divide the faithful. It is the branch of Islam that is followed in Saudi Arabia. Sad to say, you can still find plenty of believers in this lie, too. Saddam Hussein was a fan.

#8.  The Tanaka Memorial: This was allegedly a plan for world domination written by the Japanese Prime Minister for Emperor Hirohito. Because some of the plan was followed in the early months of WWII, it lead to widespread panic among the Allied Nations. It was used by the Allies, including the U.S., to whip up anti-Japanese sentiment and increase recruits into the war effort.

#7. “Remember the Maine”:  This isn’t one document, but it is certainly fake. The U.S. Battleship Maine sank in Havana harbor in 1898. No one knows who blew it up, but at the time the U.S. was backing a Cuban revolt against the Spanish. The newspapers of the day published stories about the cruelty of the Spanish using the rallying cry “Remember the Maine.” And that led us into the Spanish-American War.

#6.The Letter of Lentulus: Most of us picture Jesus a certain way. Tall, thin, long brown hair, fair skin. So where did that image originate? It can be traced to this fraudulent letter written around 1400 A.D. Alas, the image of Jesus, looking nothing like a Palestinian Jew of his time, has persisted.

#5. The Donation of Constantine: This one dates back to the 8th century. Its importance lies in the fact that it was used to divide up the Catholic world, and to break the Church into its Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic parts.

#4.The Zinoviev Letter: This item could be a movie. In 1924, days before a general election in Britain this letter was released, allegedly describing a plot by the Soviet Union to bring about a communist revolution in Britain. It not only created a Conservative victory over Labor, it also pushed Britain into an adversarial relationship with the Soviets that would last for more than 50 years.

#3. Operation Mincemeat: For once a deception was used to save lives. During WWII, the Allies wanted to invade Sicily, but needed to distract the Germans.  They used the body of a dead “tramp” and dressed him as a British Marine. They loaded him up with false plans for the invasion of Greece. Germany believed it, and poured resources into Greece, saving thousands of lives.

#2.Infektion: In 1983 the Soviet KGB published a story claiming that HIV/AIDS was created by the U.S. as a biological weapon for use against gays and blacks. The story spread through Africa and Europe. Unfortunately, it is still widely believed, even by many in the U.S.

#1.Yellowcake Uranium: Most of us remember this one. It says that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellowcake uranium to make nuclear weapons. It was part of Bush’s rationale for invading Iraq. It was completely untrue. We still don’t know how much damage has been done by this forgery.

Featured image via YouTube screengrab

Karen is a retired elementary school teacher with many years of progressive activism behind her. She is the proud mother of three young adults who were all arrested with Occupy Wall Street. To see what she writes about in her spare time, check out her blog at "Empty Nest, Full Life"