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!
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • 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.