The Dreyfus Affair. A French complex miscarriage of justice and antisemitism.

Lee Heidhues 3.13.2021

It’s valuable and educational to take a look at scandalous events beyond the American border.  As the Wikipedia article explains the Dreyfus Affair, “remains one of the most notable examples of a complex miscarriage of justice and antisemitism.”

Discrimination and miscarriage of justice have no international boundaries.  These traits are like the Covid-19 Pandemic. Perverse, dangerous and insidious.

Excerpted from Wikipedia

The Dreyfus affair (French: affaire Dreyfus, pronounced [lafɛːʁ dʁɛfys]) was a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. “L’Affaire”, as it is known in French, has come to symbolise modern injustice in the Francophone world,[1] and it remains one of the most notable examples of a complex miscarriage of justice and antisemitism. The role played by the press and public opinion proved influential in the conflict.

The scandal began in December 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason. Dreyfus was a 35-year-old Alsatian French artillery officer of Jewish descent. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, and was imprisoned in Devil’s Island in French Guiana, where he spent nearly five years.

Officer and a Spy III 3.13.2021

In 1896, evidence came to light—primarily through an investigation instigated by Georges Picquart, head of counter-espionage—which identified the real culprit as a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. When high-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence, a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy after a trial lasting only two days. The Army laid additional charges against Dreyfus, based on forged documents. Subsequently, Émile Zola‘s open letter J’Accuse…!, stoked a growing movement of support for Dreyfus, putting pressure on the government to reopen the case.

In 1899, Dreyfus was returned to France for another trial. The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus (now called “Dreyfusards”), such as Sarah Bernhardt, Anatole France, Henri Poincaré and Georges Clemenceau, and those who condemned him (the anti-Dreyfusards), such as Édouard Drumont, the director and publisher of the antisemitic newspaper La Libre Parole. The new trial resulted in another conviction and a 10-year sentence, but Dreyfus was pardoned and released. In 1906, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He died in 1935.

Officer and a Spy II 3.13.2021

The affair from 1894 to 1906 divided France into pro-republican, anticlerical Dreyfusards and pro-Army, mostly Catholic “anti-Dreyfusards”. It embittered French politics and encouraged radicalisation

 The Dreyfus Affair was adapted into a book by Robert Harris, “An Officer and a Spy,” (2013), and a movie by Roman Polanksi, “An Officer and a Spy,” (2019). Both the novel and the movie were well received.

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