Ella Dreyfus Statue of Captain Dreyfus, Paris, 2013

Ella Dreyfus Statue of Captain Dreyfus, Paris, 2013

​A brief history of the Dreyfus Affair

E L L A  D R E Y F U S

Contemporary Art Photography Research

Ella Dreyfus Statue of Captain Dreyfus, Paris, 2013

Ella Dreyfus Ella Dreyfus at statue of Captain Dreyfus, Paris, 2013

The Dreyfus Affair was an infamous case of national anti-Semitism and a grave miscarriage of justice, which occurred at the highest levels of the French military and government, and reverberated around Europe in the late 1880’s and into the twentieth century. It centred around a military officer Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was falsely convicted of high treason, sentenced to life imprisonment, and was the victim of a conspiracy, despite weak evidence against him.

The intense wide-spread anti-Semitic prejudice against Dreyfus and Jews in general, incited a group of supporters known as the ‘Dreyfusards’. This group included the great French writer Emile Zola, who wrote his famous letter “J’Accuse”, to the French president in 1898.  Dreyfus was found guilty twice, was pardoned in 1906 by the President, yet only declared innocent by the French Military in 1995, over one hundred years after his conviction.

On 13 January, 2015, the Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls denounced the recent rise in anti-Semitism in France, in a passionate speech he made to the National Assembly[1] which had strong echoes to the Zola letter. Valls denounced the re-emergence of violence and hatred towards Jews in France which have included murders, rapes, attacks on synagogues, shops and schools and large rallies. Valls asked “How can we accept that cries of ‘death to the Jews’ can be heard on the streets? How can we accept that French people can be murdered for being Jews?”

In the Guardian News on 15 January, 2015[2], Natasha Lehrer reported that the statue of Captain Dreyfus by artist Louis Mitelberg, 1985, is regularly desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti, and was rejected by the French Military, the Ecole Polytechnique and the Palais de Justice. Under President Francois Mitterrand the statue was positioned in the Gardens of the Tuileries, but moved again, to a quiet location in Place Pierre Lafue, near the Boulevard Raspail in Paris. I visited this statue in 2013, to pay homage to Captain Dreyfus and was disappointed by the impression the sculpture intones, it lacks stature for such an important man of French history, and is displayed in a most unassuming location. Hundreds of books have been written about Dreyfus, one of the most controversial figures of French history and the complicated history of Mitelberg’s rejected sculpture symbolizes the problems of anti-Semistism in France.[3]

[1] http://www.franceonu.org/france-at-the-united-nations/press-room/speaking-to-the-media/public-statements/article/13-january-2015-tribute-to-the

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/jan/15/-sp-threat-to-france-jews

[3] Nancy Fitch, Mass Culture, Mass Parliamentary Politics, and Modern Anti-Semitism: The Dreyfus Affair in Rural France, The American Historical Review Vol. 97, No. 1 (Feb., 1992)

Ella Dreyfus Street sign at statue of Captain Dreyfus, Paris, 2013


To view other art exhibitions click here www.elladreyfus.com