J'Accuse…! (I accuse…!) Is the title of the editorial written by the French journalist and writer Émile Zola in the form of an open letter to the President of the French Republic Félix Faure.
Published on January 13, 1898 by the socialist newspaper L'Aurore with the aim of publicly denouncing the persecutors of Alfred Dreyfus, the irregularities and illegalities committed during the trial that saw him convicted of high treason, at the center of one of the most famous affaires of the French history. In this eloquent tirade he denounces the enemies "of truth and justice". The term "j'accuse" has entered the current use of the Italian language, as a noun, to refer to an action of public denunciation of an abuse or injustice.
The causes and consequences
In 1894 Alfred Dreyfus, a French captain of Jewish origin, serving in the Army General Staff, was wrongly accused of having passed secret information to the German Empire, a nation at that time strongly opposed to France. After a summary judgment, Dreyfus was charged and sentenced to life deportation to Devil's Island in French Guiana. A strong wave of anti-Semitism swept through France.
Émile Zola sided in favor of the officer through an article in which he accused the real culprits of this event and this false trial. Because of the "J'accuse ...!", Zola was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of three thousand francs for insulting the armed forces in the trial which lasted from 7 to 23 February (it was the writer Octave Mirbeau who paid the 7,525 francs from the fine and the costs of the trial, in August 1898). Despite this, the open letter to President Félix Faure caused the case to be reopened.
The situation was resolved, however, only on July 12, 1906, when Émile Zola had already been dead for almost four years, and when the court of cassation revoked the sentence with which Dreyfus had been accused of treason. Following this sentence, he was reinstated in the army.
A part of Émile Zola's open letter to the President of the French Republic Félix Faure is proposed below, in Italian translation.
The J'accuse in cinema
The first page of the Aurora appears in Roman Polanski's The Officer and the Spy (2019).
History of the Jews in France
Wikisource contains the original language text of J'accuse
Wikimedia Commons contains images or other files about J'accuse
(EN) J'accuse, in Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.