1. The Dreyfus Affair: 

In the late 1800s in France, Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongfully convicted of treason based on false government documents, and sentenced to life in prison. The French government did attempt to cover this up, but Dreyfus was eventually pardoned after the affair was made public (an act that is credited to writer Émile Zola).  [1] [2]

The Dreyfus affair (French: l'affaire Dreyfus, pronounced: [a.fɛʁ dʁɛ.fys]) was a political scandal that divided France from its inception in 1894 until its resolution in 1906. It involved the conviction for treason in November 1894 of Captain Alfred Dreyfus [1] , a young French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having communicated French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was sent to the penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana and placed in solitary confinement, where he was to spend almost five years.

Two years later, in 1896, evidence came to light identifying a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the real culprit. After high-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence, a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy after the second day of his trial. The Army accused Dreyfus of additional charges based on false documents fabricated by a French counter-intelligence officer, Hubert-Joseph Henry, who was seeking to re-confirm Dreyfus's conviction. Henry's superiors accepted his documents without full examination.

Word of the military court's framing of Alfred Dreyfus and of an attendant cover-up began to spread, chiefly owing to J'accuse, a vehement open letter published in a Paris newspaper in January 1898 by the notable writer ÉmileZola. Progressive activists put pressure on the government to reopen the case.

In 1899, Dreyfus was brought to Rennes from Guiana for another trial. The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus (the Dreyfusards), such as Anatole France, Henri Poincaré and Georges Clemenceau, and those who condemned him (the anti-Dreyfusards), such as Hubert-Joseph Henry and Edouard Drumont, the director and publisher of the anti-semitic newspaper La Libre Parole. The new trial resulted in another conviction and a 10-year sentence, but Dreyfus was offered a pardon and set free.

Eventually, all the accusations against Alfred Dreyfus were demonstrated to be baseless. In 1906, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Arrest, trial and cover-up

A 1898 cartoon by Caran d'Ache depicts a fictional family dinner. At the top, somebody remarks, "Above all, let's not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!" At the bottom, the family is fighting and the caption reads, "They have discussed it."

In 1894, the French Army's counter-intelligence section, led by Lt. Col. Jean Conrad Sandherr, became aware that new artillery information was being passed to the German embassy in Paris by a highly placed spy likely to be posted in the French General Staff. Suspicion quickly fell upon Captain Alfred 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 in a penal colony on Devil's Island in French Guiana.

In August 1896, the new chief of French military intelligence, Lt. Col. Georges Picquart, reported to his superiors that he had found evidence to the effect that the real traitor was Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Picquart was silenced by a transfer 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 antisemitism, France's identity as a Catholic nation and a republic founded on equal rights for all citizens.

Influential novelist Émile Zola wrote a famous open letter entitled "J'accuse" ("I accuse") which appeared on the front page of the newspaper L'Aurore on 13 January 1898 and was addressed to French President Félix Faure, accusing the government of unlawfully imprisoning Dreyfus and certain highly placed members of the Army's general staff as guilty of a cover-up. Zola also pointed out judicial errors and the lack of serious evidence. This highly publicized letter caused a major commotion in France and abroad. Zola was prosecuted and found guilty of libel on 23 February 1898. To avoid imprisonment, he fled to Britain, not to return home until June 1899.

Other pamphlets proclaiming Dreyfus's innocence include Bernard Lazare's A Miscarriage of Justice: The Truth about the Dreyfus Affair (November 1896).

A second trial, in 1900, again resulted in a conviction, but Dreyfus was pardoned later that year and in 1906 was at last fully exonerated, reinstated and restored to the rank of major in the French Army.


The affair saw the emergence of the "intellectuals" – academics and others with high intellectual achievements who took positions on grounds of higher principle – such as Émile Zola, novelists Octave Mirbeau and Anatole France, mathematicians Henri Poincaré and Jacques Hadamard, and Lucien Herr, librarian of the École Normale Supérieure. Constantin Mille, a Romanian socialist writer and émigré in Paris, described the anti-Dreyfusard camp as a "militarist dictatorship".

Alfred Dreyfus was reinstated into the French Army with the rank of major and made a Chevalier of the French Légion d'honneur in July 1906. However, his health had deteriorated during his imprisonment on Devil's Island and, at his request, he was granted an honorable discharge in 1907. In 1908, at the burial of Zola at the Panthéon, he was slightly wounded in an assassination attempt. Célestin Hennion, the head of the French police, was on hand to arrest the would-be assassin, who was tried, but found not guilty.

Dreyfus volunteered for military service again in 1914, at the beginning of World War I, and served, despite advancing age, in a range of artillery commands, first as a major, and finally as a lieutenant-colonel. Ironically, he was the only soldier involved in the affair to serve in the First World War. He was promoted to the rank of officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1919. His son, Pierre Dreyfus, also served in World War I as an artillery officer and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Alfred Dreyfus's two nephews also fought as artillery officers in the French Army during World War I, but both were killed. The same artillery piece, secrets of which Dreyfus was accused of revealing to the Germans, was used in blunting the early German offensives because of its ability to maintain accuracy during rapid fire. Dreyfus died July 12, 1935. His funeral cortège passed through ranks assembled for Bastille Day celebrations at the Place de la Concorde, and he was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.

Political ramifications

The factions in the Dreyfus affair remained in place for decades afterward. The far right remained a potent force, as did the moderate liberals. The liberal victory played an important role in pushing the far right to the fringes of French politics. It also prompted legislation such as a 1905 law separating church and state. The coalition of partisan anti-Dreyfusards remained together, but turned to other causes. Groups such as Maurras's Action Française, formed during the affair, endured for decades.The despised Nazi collaborators of the Vichy Regime contained many anti-Dreyfusards and their descendants. The anti-semitic Vichy Regime would later close its eyes to the arrest of Dreyfus's Jewish granddaughter, Madeleine Levy, by the Gestapo. Madame Levy was imprisoned in Camp Drancy on 3 November 1943, and on 20 November of the same year she was deported to Auschwitz, where she died of typhus in January 1944.

Antisemitism and birth of Zionism

The Hungarian-Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl had been assigned to report on the trial and its aftermath. Soon afterward, Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State, 1896) and founded the World Zionist Organization, which called for the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine.

The antisemitism and injustice revealed in France by the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus had a radicalizing effect on Herzl, persuading him that Jews, despite the Enlightenment and Jewish assimilation, could never hope for fair treatment in European society. While the Dreyfus affair was not Herzl's initial motivation, it did much to encourage his Zionism.

In the Middle East, the Muslim Arab press was sympathetic to the falsely accused Captain Dreyfus, and criticized the persecution of Jews in France.

However, not all Jews saw the Dreyfus Affair as evidence of antisemitism in France. It was also viewed as the opposite. The Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas often cited the words of his father: "A country that tears itself apart to defend the honor of a small Jewish captain is somewhere worth going."

Commission of sculpture

In 1985, President François Mitterrand commissioned a statue of Dreyfus by sculptor Louis Mitelberg. It was to be installed at the École Militaire, but the Minister of Defense refused to display it, even though Alfred Dreyfus had been rehabilitated into the Army and fully exonerated in 1906. Today it can be found at Boulevard Raspail, n°116–118, at the exit of the Notre-Dame-des-Champs metro station. A replica is located at the entrance of the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris.

Centennial commemoration.

On 12 July 2006, President Jacques Chirac held an official state ceremony marking the centenary of Dreyfus's official rehabilitation. This was held in the presence of the living descendants of both Émile Zola and Alfred Dreyfus. The event took place in the same cobblestone courtyard of Paris's École Militaire, where Capitaine Dreyfus had been officially stripped of his officer's rank. Chirac stated that "the combat against the dark forces of intolerance and hate is never definitively won," and called Dreyfus "an exemplary officer" and a "patriot who passionately loved France." The French National Assembly also held a memorial ceremony of the centennial marking the end of the Affair. This was held in remembrance of the 1906 laws that had reintegrated and promoted both Dreyfus and Picquart at the end of the Dreyfus Affair.

Tour de France and L'Auto

The roots of both the Tour de France bicycle race and the daily sporting newspaper L'Auto (now L'Équipe) can be traced to the Dreyfus Affair. Le Velo, then the largest sports daily in France, was Dreyfusard. In 1900 a group of anti-Dreyfusards started L'Auto to compete with Le Velo. L'Auto in turn created the Tour de France race in 1903.

The trigger for these events was a brawl between Dreyfusards and anti-Dreyfusards at the Auteuil racetrack in Paris in 1899. In this incident, the President of France, Émile Loubet, was struck on the head with a walking stick by Count Albert de Dion, owner of the De Dion-Bouton motor car company.

De Dion served 15 days in jail and was fined 100 francs. De Dion's behavior was savagely criticised by Le Vélo and its Dreyfusard editor, Pierre Giffard. De Dion responded by starting L'Auto. He was supported by other wealthy anti-Dreyfusards such as Adolphe Clément and Édouard Michelin. (They were also concerned with Le Vélo because its publisher was their rival, Automobiles Darracq SA.)

L'Auto was not the success its backers wanted. By 1903, its circulation was declining. To boost its circulation, L'Auto launched theTour de France, a new long-distance bicycle race with distances and prizes far exceeding any previous race.

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About Octa Dandy Saiyar

Kelahiran Jakarta keturunan asli Bukittinggi, Sumatera Barat .
07 Oktober 1983.

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