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05-01-1895

Dreyfus affair in France

French officer Alfred Dreyfus, condemned for passing military secrets to the Germans, is stripped of his rank in a humiliating public ceremony in the courtyard of Paris' Ecole Militaire. The Jewish artillery captain, convicted on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial, began his life sentence at Devil's Island Prison four months later. The case demonstrated the anti-Semitism permeating France's military and, because few doubted Dreyfus' guilt, in France generally.

After a French major was implicated in the crime in 1896, the military attempted a cover-up, which led to a divisive national scandal over the affair. In 1898, the French major was put on trial but was acquitted within an hour. French novelist Émile Zola led public condemnation of the decision, writing an open letter entitled J'Accuse, which accused the judges of being under the thumb of the military. In 1899, Dreyfus was retried and found guilty again, but that year the new French president, Émile Loubet, remitted the sentence. It was eventually revealed that the evidence against Dreyfus had been forged by French army intelligence in order to ensure his conviction.