Dreyfus Case

Dreyfus Case


a legal case against an officer of the French General Staff, the Jew Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), who was unjustly accused of spying for Germany, a charge fabricated in 1894 by reactionary French militarists. The Dreyfus case became the object of severe political conflict in France in the 1890’s between the monarchist aristocratic military and clerical elite, who were tolerated by the ruling group of moderate republicans, and the bourgeois democrats.

Charges were brought against Dreyfus by the Ministry of War, and despite the total absence of evidence, a military court sentenced him in December 1894 to penal servitude for life. New materials proving his innocence were soon found, but the ruling circles in France opposed the rehabilitation of Dreyfus in every way possible. The real traitor, Esterhazy, an officer who had in fact delivered secret French documents to German intelligence, was acquitted after a trial on Jan. 11, 1898. On Sept. 9, 1899, a military court reviewed the case and again found Dreyfus guilty, in spite of clear evidence to the contrary. The forces of reaction used the Dreyfus case to incite anti-Semitism and chauvinism and to attack the republican regime and democratic liberties. Progressive workers, many socialists, and progressive intellectuals took an active stand in defense of the republic and for the vindication of Dreyfus. A major role in mobilizing the democratic forces was played by E. Zola’s letter to F. Faure (J’Accuse, Jan. 13, 1898), in which the writer accused the authorities of deliberately condemning the innocent Dreyfus.

Under the conditions created by an extreme sharpening of class contradictions in France at the turn of the century, the struggle over the Dreyfus case led to a serious political crisis and brought the country to the verge of civil war. Having created an atmosphere of chauvinist hysteria in the country, reactionary forces led by the Ligue de la Patrie Française (League of the French Fatherland) attempted a coup d’etat in February 1899, intending to overthrow the republic and abolish democratic liberties. Action in defense of the republic by leftist forces and above all by the working class thwarted the attempted coup.

Fear of workers’ demonstrations brought the two bourgeois camps together: the Dreyfusards (those who favored a review of the case) and the anti-Dreyfusards (those who opposed a review). The government of P. M. Waldeck-Rousseau, which took office in June 1899, sought to “pacify” the country by bringing the Dreyfus case to an end. At the urging of the government, the president of the republic pardoned Dreyfus on Sept. 19, 1899, and in July 1906 Dreyfus was fully exonerated.


Reinach, J. Histoire de l’affaire Dreyfus [vols.] 1-6. Paris, 1901-08.
Halasz, N. Captain Dreyfus: The Story of a Mass Hysteria. New York, 1955.
Thalheimer, S. Macht und Gerechtigkeit: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Falles Dreyfus. Munich, 1958.
Giscard d’Estaing, H. D’Esterhazy a Dreyfus. Paris, 1960.


References in periodicals archive ?
The role of the establishment, the generals, the lies and cover-ups even after the truth is known is related in fine detail, as is the atmosphere of anti-Semitism prevalent in France which colored much of the Dreyfus case, since he, of course, was a Jew.
The Prague Cemetery is best when developing this [anti-Semitic] thread, culminating in a masterful account of the Dreyfus case, in which forged documents were used to convict an innocent French Army officer of espionage because he was Jewish.
Basically, the two manifestos thus reflected the division of French scholarly and intellectual life into the "left" and the "right" that had already proved to be so prominent in the Dreyfus case in the 1890s--with which the author begins his analysis--and which, in French life, extended all the way back to the French Revolution in 1789.
It was the first ever paper to have a female editor in Rachel Beer, the aunt of Siegfried Sassoon, who was instrumental in exposing the lies at the heart of the infamous Dreyfus case.
In the Dreyfus case, for example, the allegations in the complaint involved either the purchase by the fund manager of inappropriate investments or Dreyfus's lack of diligent oversight of the fund manager's actions.
Born in 1892 into a cultured milieu--his father was a violinist and his mother a pianist in the Paris Symphony--Altermann grew up in the same building where Alfred Dreyfus once resided and in front of which angry anti-Semitic mobs gathered in the 1890s when the Dreyfus case rocked French society.
Cavaignac studied the so-called secret dossier and then delivered a detailed statement in the Chamber of Deputies against reopening the Dreyfus case.
Still opposed to reopening the Dreyfus case, the anti-Dreyfusards launched a series of patriotic counterattacks designed to brand all Dreyfusards as traitors to France and calumniators of the honor of the army.
From beginning to end, this case bears a remarkable resemblance to another episode of national hysteria, the notorious Dreyfus case, which rocked France a century earlier.
In the first two parts of this annual there are eight substantial articles either on a specific newspaper (The Great Assises Holden in Parnassus, Le Matin, The Daily Herald), certain journalists or individuals (Sir Robert Walpole, Arthur Young, Philippe Bunau-Varilla), newspaper reporting of a particular event (a treason trial in 1798, the Dreyfus case, the 1923 Docks strike), or trends in newspaper or periodical history (the Americanization of the British press).
for his fascination with Marilyn Monroe, the Dreyfus case, Kafka