Modern parallels in scandal that shamed France

Alfred Dreyfus was publicly stripped of his rank after he was wrongly accused of spying

Captain Alfred Dreyfus remained loyal to his country and the Army, despite being hounded by anti-Semites and the right-wing press in France for years after he was cleared of spying charges

The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal that shamed France for decades. It began in 1894 when Army captain Alfred Dreyfus was arrested for spying, and officially continued until 1906 when he was finally exonerated.

But it continued for many years afterwards. The right-wing press continued to attack his reputation, and his Jewish ancestry – even after his death in 1935 – until anti-Semitism in France was made illegal after the Second World War.

Author and historian Georges Joumas, whose book Alfred Dreyfus, Citoyen came out last year, notes that the only legal defence against any kind of discrimination, racism or anti-Semitism at that time was to sue for defamation.

It effectively meant that the press were free to print articles based on racial and religious discrimination. And they did. L’Affaire Dreyfus, as it was known, made the front pages worldwide, and France was especially condemned by the British press.

Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935) was an artillery officer from Alsace. He came from a wealthy family of Jewish descent, and was commissioned in 1880 after graduating from the elite Ecole Polytechnique military school in Paris.

He then spent two years in specialist training at the artillery school in Fontainebleau after which he was assigned to ...

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