Alfred Dreyfus

Article

January 24, 2022

Alfred Dreyfus (Mulhouse, 9 October 1859 - Paris, 12 July 1935) was a French soldier. Captain of the General Staff, Jewish, on 22 December 1894 he was convicted by a military court on the charge, later revealed to be false, of high treason.

Biography

Alfred Dreyfus was born as the last child of Raphaël Dreyfus, a Jewish industrialist, and Jeannette Libmann-Weill. He lives in Alsace with his parents and nine brothers in the family house on the rue du Sauvage in Mulhouse. In 1871 France was a veteran of the defeat suffered in the Franco-Prussian War and Alsace was annexed by the German Empire. The inhabitants of Alsace and Lorraine face a choice: take refuge in France or become German subjects. In 1872, the Dreyfus choose French nationality and move to Paris. Alfred Dreyfus then enters l'École polytechnique in 1878 and becomes an artillery officer. He is admitted in 1890 to the École de guerre, a military institute for the training of officers of the French armed forces. In the same year, he married Lucie Hadamard (23 August 1869 - 14 December 1945), from a wealthy family of diamond dealers originally from Metz. The couple saw the birth of two children: Pierre (April 5, 1891 - December 28, 1946) and Jeanne (February 22, 1893 - April 30, 1981). In September 1894, counter-espionage stole a letter from the German embassy in Paris to a German officer, revealing important French military information. Alfred Dreyfus, whose handwriting resembles that of the letter, is quickly referred to as suspicious. The fears and political ambitions of war minister Auguste Mercier, as well as the anti-Semitism of the general staff, make Dreyfus the ideal scapegoat. Although the trial was based on patently false documents, Dreyfus was sentenced in January 1895 as the drafter of the letter to life imprisonment and sent to captivity on Devil's Island in French Guiana. In 1899 there was a review of the trial and the military court confirmed the guilt, but changed the sentence to 10 years in prison. A few days after the verdict, Dreyfus obtained pardon. Despite the explosion of the case, Dreyfus was not fully rehabilitated until July 1906, when he was found innocent thanks to a verdict of the Court of Cassation. He was rehabilitated in the army and rank, but, due to physical weakness caused by captivity, he was discharged in October 1907 and placed on the reservation. He returned to service in 1914 at the outbreak of the Great War with the rank of major in the artillery, mostly in the rear in Paris, but also participating since 1917 in fights in Verdun and at the Chemin des Dames, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1918. On 9 July 1919 he was awarded the title of officer of the Legion of Honor. He died in Paris in 1935 and was buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery. The inscription on his grave (Here lies Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Dreyfus, officer of the Legion of Honor) is in French and Hebrew.

The Dreyfus Affair

During Dreyfus' imprisonment on Devil's Island, in French Guiana, the court case in France became a reason for division in the country; public opinion was divided into two camps: the dreyfusards and the antidreyfusards. The former, intellectuals, politicians and all those who considered the affair a sensational case of anti-Semitism, racism and blind nationalism; the latter were, on the contrary, nationalists, anti-Semites and military. Prominent personalities, such as Empress Eugenia (consort of the late Napoleon III) participate in the debate. Eugenia, for example, was a "pro-Dreyfus" and defended him from the historian Gustave Schlumberger, who was convinced of Dreyfus's guilt and interrupted anyone who spoke in favor of the Jewish officer. 'Empress held in favor

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