The Dreyfus Affair

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The Dreyfus Affair

Alfred Dreyfus was meant to be a successful man. He had what it took to get ahead - intelligence, spirit, competence. When he joined the General Staff as an officer of artillery in 1892, there was no reason to believe it wasn't the beginning of a promising military career for the young Jewish man from Mulhouse.

Unfortunately, his success was threatening to some of his fellow officers, particularly those who wanted to keep Jews out of the military. He was assured by a General Dionne that Jewish officers were "valued as highly as any others". Nonetheless he was troubled by anti-semites on the job. This wasn't terribly surprising at a time when anti-semitism was a socially acceptable and in fact a somewhat popular public sentiment, readily found in well circulated newspapers.

This anti-semitism ultimately cost Dreyfus his life. He was accused of high treason but in his own words, "My only crime is to have been born a Jew!" His handwriting matched that of the Bordereau only when an anti-semite handwriting expert examined it. And no motive could be established as to why Dreyfus would spy for the Germans. It didn't make any sense. However it makes perfect sense that men who hated him because he was Jewish would falsely accuse him.

There is a picture of Dreyfus on page 58 of "France and the Dreyfus Affair" that I just sat and looked at for a minute. It made me feel really sad. He was sent to live alone on some remote island for doing nothing. For being Jewish. What a waste.
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