Alfred Dreyfus

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Alfred Dreyfus
Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935).jpg
Alfred Dreyfus c. 1894
Born(1859-10-09)9 October 1859
Mulhouse, Alsace, Second French Empire
Died12 July 1935(1935-07-12) (aged 75)
Paris, France
Buried ( 48°50′17″N2°19′37″E / 48.83806°N 2.32694°E / 48.83806; 2.32694 Coordinates: 48°50′17″N2°19′37″E / 48.83806°N 2.32694°E / 48.83806; 2.32694 )
AllegianceFlag of France (1794-1958).svg  France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service1880–1918
Rank Lieutenant-colonel
Unit Artillery
Battles/wars World War I
AwardsChevalier de la Légion d'honneur (1906)
Officier de la Légion d'honneur (1918)
RelationsRaphael Dreyfus (father)
Jeannette Libmann (mother)
Lucie Eugénie Hadamard (wife)
Pierre Dreyfus (son)
Jeanne Dreyfus (daughter)
Signature Alfred Dreyfus signature.svg

Alfred Dreyfus (French:  [al.fʁɛd dʁɛ.fys] ; 9 October 1859 – 12 July 1935) was a French Jewish artillery officer whose trial and conviction in 1894 on charges of treason became one of the most tense political dramas in modern French history with a wide echo in all Europe. Known today as the Dreyfus affair, the incident eventually ended with Dreyfus's complete exoneration.

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

Dreyfus affair Sociopolitical controversy in France where an Alsatian Jew was falsely convicted of treason

The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. 'The Affair', as it is known in French, has come to symbolise modern injustice in the Francophone world, 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.

Contents

Early life

Born in Mulhouse, Alsace in 1859, Dreyfus was the youngest of nine children born to Raphaël and Jeannette Dreyfus (née Libmann). Raphaël Dreyfus was a prosperous, self-made Jewish textile manufacturer who had started as a peddler. Alfred was 10 years old when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in the summer of 1870, and his family moved to Paris following the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany after the war.

Mulhouse Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Mulhouse is a city and commune in eastern France, close to the Swiss and German borders.

Alsace Place in Grand Est, France

Alsace is a cultural and historical region in eastern France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine next to Germany and Switzerland.

Peddler travelling vendor of goods

A peddler, in British English pedlar, also known as a canvasser, chapman, cheapjack, hawker, higler, huckster, monger, or solicitor, is a traveling vendor of goods.

The childhood experience of seeing his family uprooted by the war with Germany prompted Dreyfus to decide on a career in the military. Following his 18th birthday in October 1877, he enrolled in the elite École Polytechnique military school in Paris, where he received military training and an education in the sciences. In 1880, he graduated and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in the French army. From 1880 to 1882, he attended the artillery school at Fontainebleau to receive more specialized training as an artillery officer. On graduation he was assigned to the Thirty-first Artillery Regiment, which was in garrison at Le Mans. Dreyfus was subsequently transferred to a mounted artillery battery attached to the First Cavalry Division (Paris), and promoted to lieutenant in 1885. In 1889, he was made adjutant to the director of the Établissement de Bourges, a government arsenal, and promoted to captain.

Franco-Prussian War significant conflict pitting the Second French Empire against the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and later the Third French Republic, and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw the independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck did not plan anything and merely exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

École Polytechnique French institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau

École polytechnique ; also known as EP or X), is a French public institution of higher education and research in Palaiseau, a suburb southwest of Paris. It is one of the most prestigious and selective French scientific and engineering schools, called grandes écoles in French. It is known for its ingénieur polytechnicien scientific degree program which is equivalent to both a bachelor and master of science. Its entrance exam, the X-ENS exam, is renowned for its selectivity with a little over 400 admitted students out of the 5,206 students enrolled in the preparatory programs for the French scientific and engineering schools taking the exam.

Paris Capital and most populous city of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

On 18 April 1891, the 31-year-old Dreyfus married 20-year-old Lucie Eugénie Hadamard (1870–1945). They had two children, Pierre (1891–1946) and Jeanne (1893–1981). [1] Three days after the wedding, Dreyfus learned that he had been admitted to the École Supérieure de Guerre or War College. Two years later, he graduated ninth in his class with honorable mention and was immediately designated as a trainee in the French Army's General Staff headquarters, where he would be the only Jewish officer. His father Raphaël died on 13 December 1893.

Lucie Dreyfus

Lucie Dreyfus-Hadamard, was the wife of Alfred Dreyfus, and his main and unwavering support during the Affair that shook the couple from 1894 to 1906. She never ceased to defend the honor of her husband.

At the War College examination in 1892, his friends had expected him to do well. However, one of the members of the panel, General Bonnefond, felt that "Jews were not desired" on the staff, and gave Dreyfus poor marks for cote d'amour (French slang: attraction; translatable as likability). Bonnefond's assessment lowered Dreyfus's overall grade; he did the same to another Jewish candidate, Lieutenant Picard. Learning of this injustice, the two officers lodged a protest with the director of the school, General Lebelin de Dionne, who expressed his regret for what had occurred, but said he was powerless to take any steps in the matter. The protest would later count against Dreyfus. The French army of the period was relatively open to entry and advancement by talent, with an estimated 300 Jewish officers, of whom ten were generals. [2] However, within the Fourth Bureau of the General Staff, General Bonnefond's prejudices appear to have been shared by some of the new trainee's superiors. The personal assessments received by Dreyfus during 1893/94 acknowledged his high intelligence, but were critical of aspects of his personality. [3]

The Dreyfus affair

Alfred Dreyfus in his room on Devil's Island in 1898,
stereoscopy sold by F. Hamel, Altona-Hamburg...; collection Fritz Lachmund F. Hamel Stereoskopie Altona-Hamburg 1898 Dreyfuss auf der Teufelsinsel, Bildseite.tif
Alfred Dreyfus in his room on Devil's Island in 1898,
stereoscopy sold by F. Hamel, Altona-Hamburg...; collection Fritz Lachmund
Dreyfus painted by Jean Baptiste Guth for Vanity Fair, 1899 Alfred Dreyfus, Vanity Fair, 1899-09-07 edit.jpg
Dreyfus painted by Jean Baptiste Guth for Vanity Fair , 1899

In 1894, the French Army's counter-intelligence section, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jean Sandherr, became aware that information regarding new artillery parts was being passed to the Germans by a highly placed spy, most likely on the General Staff. Suspicion quickly fell upon Dreyfus, who was arrested for treason on 15 October 1894. On 5 January 1895, Dreyfus was summarily convicted in a secret court martial, publicly stripped of his army rank, and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island in French Guiana. Following French military custom of the time, Dreyfus was formally degraded (cashiered) by having the rank insignia, buttons and braid cut from his uniform and his sword broken, all in the courtyard of the École Militaire before silent ranks of soldiers, while a large crowd of onlookers shouted abuse from behind railings. Dreyfus cried out: "I swear that I am innocent. I remain worthy of serving in the Army. Long live France! Long live the Army!" [4]

Jean Sandherr French military officer

Colonel Nicolas Jean Robert Conrad Auguste Sandherr was a French military officer involved in the Dreyfus Affair.

Cashiering Ritual dismissal for breach of discipline

Cashiering, generally within military forces, is a ritual dismissal of an individual from some position of responsibility for a breach of discipline.

Life imprisonment is any sentence of imprisonment for a crime under which convicted persons are to remain in prison either for the rest of their natural life or until paroled. Crimes for which, in some countries, a person could receive this sentence include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, blasphemy, apostasy, terrorism, severe child abuse, rape, child rape, espionage, treason, high treason, drug dealing, drug trafficking, drug possession, human trafficking, severe cases of fraud, severe cases of financial crimes, aggravated criminal damage in English law, and aggravated cases of arson, kidnapping, burglary, or robbery which result in death or grievous bodily harm, piracy, aircraft hijacking, and in certain cases genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, certain war crimes or any three felonies in case of three strikes law. Life imprisonment can also be imposed, in certain countries, for traffic offenses causing death. The life sentence does not exist in all countries: Portugal was the first to abolish life imprisonment, in 1884.

In August 1896, the new chief of French military intelligence, Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart, reported to his superiors that he had found evidence to the effect that the real traitor was the Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Picquart was silenced by being transferred to the southern desert of Tunisia in November 1896. When reports of an army cover-up and Dreyfus's possible innocence were leaked to the press, a heated debate ensued about anti-Semitism and France's identity as a Catholic nation or a republic founded on equal rights for all citizens. Esterhazy was found not guilty by a secret court martial, before fleeing to England. Following a passionate campaign by Dreyfus's supporters, including leading artists and intellectuals such as Émile Zola, [5] he was given a second trial in 1899 and again declared guilty of treason despite the evidence in favor of his innocence.

However, due to public opinion, Dreyfus was offered and accepted a pardon by President Émile Loubet in 1899 and released from prison; this was a compromise that saved face for the military's mistake. Had Dreyfus refused the pardon, he would have been returned to Devil's Island, a fate he could no longer emotionally cope with; so officially Dreyfus remained a traitor to France, and pointedly remarked upon his release:

The government of the Republic has given me back my freedom. It is nothing for me without my honor. [1]

For two years, until July 1906, he lived in a state of house-arrest with one of his sisters at Carpentras, and later at Cologny.

On 12 July 1906, Dreyfus was officially exonerated by a military commission. The day after his exoneration, he was readmitted into the army with a promotion to the rank of major (Chef d'Escadron). A week later, he was made Knight of the Legion of Honour, [6] and subsequently assigned to command an artillery unit at Vincennes. On 15 October 1906, he was placed in command of another artillery unit at Saint-Denis.

Aftermath

Dreyfus was present at the ceremony removing Zola's ashes to the Panthéon in 4 June 1908, when he was wounded in the arm by a gunshot from a disgruntled journalist, Louis Gregori, in an assassination attempt.

In 1937 his son Pierre published his father's memoirs based on his correspondence between 1899 and 1906. The memoirs were titled Souvenirs et Correspondance and translated into English by Dr Betty Morgan.

Dreyfus had started corresponding with the marquise Marie Arconati Visconti in 1899 and began attending her Thursday (political) salons after his release. They continued correspondence until her death in 1923. [7]

Later life

The Dreyfus family, taken in 1905 AlfredDreyfus.png
The Dreyfus family, taken in 1905
A 74-year-old Alfred Dreyfus, ca. 1934 Dreyfus-annee-de-sa-mort.jpg
A 74-year-old Alfred Dreyfus, ca. 1934

World War I

Dreyfus's prison sentence on Devil's Island had taken its toll on his health. He was granted retirement from the army in October 1907 at the age of 48. As a reserve officer, he re-entered the army as a major of artillery at the outbreak of World War I. Serving throughout the war, Dreyfus rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

By then in his mid-50s, Dreyfus served mostly behind the lines of the Western Front, in part as commander of an artillery supply column. However, he also performed front-line duties in 1917, notably at Verdun and on the Chemin des Dames. He was promoted to the rank of Officier de la Légion d'honneur in November 1918. [8]

Dreyfus's son Pierre also served throughout the entire war as an artillery officer, receiving the Croix de guerre.

Death

Dreyfus died in Paris aged 75, on 12 July 1935, exactly 29 years after his exoneration. Two days later, his funeral cortège passed the Place de la Concorde through the ranks of troops assembled for the Bastille Day national holiday (14 July 1935). He was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris. The inscription on his tombstone is in Hebrew and French. It reads (translated to English):

Here Lies
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Dreyfus
Officer of the Legion of Honour
9 October 1859 – 12 July 1935

A statue of Dreyfus holding his broken sword is located at Boulevard Raspail, n°116–118, at the exit of the Notre-Dame-des-Champs metro station. A duplicate statue stands in the courtyard to the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris.

Legacy

Captain Alfred Dreyfus's grandchildren donated over three thousand documents to the Musée d'art et d'histoire du judaïsme (Museum of Jewish art and history), including personal letters, photographs of the trial, legal documents, writings by Dreyfus during his time in prison, personal family photographs, and his officer stripes that were ripped out as a symbol of treason. The museum created an online platform in 2006 dedicated to the Dreyfus Affair.

In an episode of the television series The Munsters , Herman and Lily Munster reflect on their honeymoon on Devil's Island. Longing for another special night like that, Herman remarks that they should have stayed in touch with Captain Dreyfus, clearly a reference to the exiled captain.

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 YuMuseum
  2. Read, Piers Paul (2012). The Dreyfus Affair. p. 83. ISBN   978-1-4088-3057-4.
  3. Read. The Dreyfus Affair. p. 84.
  4. Read. The Dreyfus Affair. p. 113.
  5. "Summary of Emile Zola's J'Accuse, and its Repercussions. Dreyfus Letter to Zola's Widow, 1910". SMF Primary Sources. Shapell Manuscript Foundation.
  6. Minutes of the induction of Dreyfus into the Legion of Honor, French Ministry of Culture and Communication
  7. Wood, Michael (17 September 2017). "The French Are Not Men" . Retrieved 29 October 2017. (London Review Of Books)
  8. Biography of Alfred Dreyfus and General Chronology, French Ministry of Culture and Communication

Bibliography