The Dreyfus Affair 1895-1899

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The Dreyfus affair (French: l’affaire Dreyfus) was a political scandal that divided France from its beginning in 1894 until it was finally resolved in 1906.

The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice, and remains one of the most striking examples of a complex miscarriage of justice, where a major role was played by the press and public opinion.

The scandal began in December 1894, with the treason conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian and Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil’s Island in French Guiana, where he would spend nearly five years.

The visionary of the state of Israel, Theodor Herzl, was witness to mass rallies in Paris following the Dreyfus trial, where many chanted “Death to the Jews!”.

Herzl then came to reject his early ideas regarding Jewish emancipation and assimilation and believed that the Jews must remove themselves from Europe and create their own state.

In 1899, Dreyfus was returned to France for another trial. The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society. Eventually all the accusations against Alfred Dreyfus were demonstrated to be baseless.

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