The Dreyfus Affair

The hunt for a spy within the French military went off the rails when an amateur graphologist fingered the wrong suspect. A closed military trial turned into an national scandal involving forged evidence, multiple moles, and two separate failed assassinations.

Content warnings: Discussions of antisemitism, suicide, pogroms, and the origins of the Zionist movement. The show notes contain several antisemitic caricatures of Dreyfus and his family.

Featured image: A colorized photograph of Alfred Dreyfus, taken some time before 1894. (Image source)

The bordereau at the center of the affair. (Image source)

Dreyfus in prison on Devil’s Island in 1898. He was in very poor health at this time. (Image source)

An illustration of the degradation of Dreyfus. (Image source)

A cartoon from 1894, portraying Dreyfus as Judas. Compare the way his features–especially his nose–have been drawn in this image to the photograph above. (Image source)

A portrait of Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy–the real spy who penned the letter at the center of the affair. (Image source)

A political cartoon from 1898 (the period of the Esterhazy and Zola trials) titled “La vraie débâcle” (The real debacle). Alfred Dreyfus is shown here with a grotesquely exaggerated nose and a German helmet poking out of his hat. His brother Mathieu (with devil ears) is embracing Zola. The man carrying the rabbit is a chemist attached to Colonel Picquart who passed the letters from the mistress (shown here as a rabbit?) on to the press. More anti-Semitic caricatures are in the background. Joseph Reinach was a Jewish politician and Dreyfusard. (Image source)

A pro-Dreyfus cartoon from the same year, with Dreyfus represented as one victim among many of the military. This was created by an American cartoonist; it was published in Puck, a satirical magazine that produced quite a few pro-Dreyfus images. (Image source)

An anti-Dreyfus caricature of Émile Zola, with the caption “Truth emerges from its source.” The is probably a reference to the recently painted Truth Coming Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind; Zola’s well here is a toilet and he’s carrying a tiny Dreyfus instead of a whip. (Image source)

An illustration of Lt. Col. Picquart being deposed during Zola’s trial. (Image source)

A caricature from 1906. Esterhazy is now the villain of the story and is depicted as a hyena feeding on the honor of the French army. (Image source)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *