One of the alleged secret societies proposed as secret masters of the world by modern conspiracy theorists, the Committee of 300 owes its existence in conspiracy literature to a passing remark in a 1909 newspaper article by Walther Rathenau, a German-Jewish industrialist and civil servant. Rathenau, in a passage criticizing industrial monopolies, commented that the European economic system was under the control of some 300 men who all knew one another. Reprinted in Rathenau’s 1921 book, Zur Kritik der Zeit (A Critique of the Times), the article came to the attention of German antisemites just after the first German publication of the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. See antisemitism; Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Erich von Ludendorff, the former general and leading right-wing politician, insisted in his 1922 book Kriegsführung und Politik (Warfare and Politics) that the 300 men were none other than the heads of the secret Jewish world conspiracy described in the Protocols. Articles in German antisemitic newspapers claimed that Rathenau’s knowledge of the exact number of these men proved that he himself was one of them. All this propaganda helped lay the groundwork for Rathenau’s 1922 assassination by right-wing fanatics allied to the Nazi Party, then a small but rising power in German politics.
By the middle years of the twentieth century the Committee of 300 had become a fixture of European conspiracy theories, and by the end of the century it merged with other conspiracy narratives. A recent book on the Committee, John Coleman’s Conspirator’s Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300 (1992), describes the Committee – also known as the Olympians – as a secret society of aristocratic Satanists, and identifies them with the Bavarian Illuminati, the Bogomils, the Cathars, and the ancient Isaic and Dionysiac mysteries. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a standard element of contemporary conspiracy theories, is simply a pawn in the hands of the Committee, which also sponsors the Club of Rome. See Bavarian Illuminati; Cathars; Club of Rome; Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); Dionysian mysteries; Isaic mysteries; Satanism.
Despite all these impressive details, no one has actually offered any evidence that the Committee of 300 actually exists. While Rathenau’s original comment was quite likely correct at the time, and is at least as likely to be true today, the loosely organized network of financiers and industrialists he meant to describe seems much more plausible than the secret Satanic conspiracy imagined by the Committee’s would-be enemies.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006