Alfred Dreyfus Document Trove Is Posted Online by French Defense Ministry

Anti-Semitic 'J'Accuse' Affair Helped Give Birth to Zionism

Moral Strength: French Jew Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason, but later exonerated.
getty images
Moral Strength: French Jew Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason, but later exonerated.

By JTA

Published March 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

France’s Defense Ministry has posted online hundreds of documents from the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish soldier whose wrongful espionage conviction was a determinant in the genesis of political Zionism.

The historical department of the French Ministry of Defense, SHD, placed online this week the entire military file that was used to convict Dreyfus of spying for Germany in 1894. The documents include items like investigative notes, witness statements, letters and documents stolen from foreign embassies.

Among the dozens of foreign correspondents covering the Dreyfus trial, which featured strong themes of anti-Semitism, was Theodor Herzl, who was then a reporter for the Vienna New Free Press. Two years after founding the Zionist Organization, now called the World Zionist Organization, Herzl wrote in 1899 that the Dreyfus case was what made him a Zionist.

Dreyfus was pardoned and restored to the army as a major after a lengthy court battle and nearly five years of solitary confinement on Devil’s Island, the notorious penal colony in French Guiana; he had been sentenced to life in prison.

The case was widely denounced as a miscarriage of justice, most notably in “J’accuse,” an open letter by Émile Zola published on the front page of the newspaper L’Aurore in 1898.

The archived files from the trial have been scanned, transcribed and made accessible to the general public online with the help of the authors of a new book about the trial titled “Le dossier secret de l’affaire Dreyfus.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.