CAPTAIN OF INNOCENCE: France and the Dreyfus Affair by Norman H. Finkelstein

CAPTAIN OF INNOCENCE: France and the Dreyfus Affair

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The cause cÉlèbre that dominated turn-of-the-century French politics; the author argues plausibly that the virulent anti-Semitism exhibited, then presaged the Holocaust. Dreyfus, an ardent patriot since being exiled from his native Alsace after the Franco-Prussian War, was an officer in training in 1894 when it was discovered that military secrets were being passed to the Germans. Seizing him on the flimsiest of evidence, confirmed in the popular mind because he was Jewish, the army court-martialed Dreyfus in secret, illegal proceedings and sentenced him to life on Devil's Island. The effort to reverse this injustice pitted the ""Dreyfusards,"" including such intellectuals as Zola and other left-wing figures, against rabid nationalism and the extensive coverup perpetrated by the army, allied with conservatives and clergy. In 1899, Dreyfus was convicted in a second trumped-up court-martial, then pardoned--partly because of international indignation; not until 1906 was he fully exonerated. Though the complexity of the detail here may daunt students without a firm grounding in history, Finkelstein (The Other 1492, 1989) sets the myriad facts and players in admirably coherent order and makes clear their significance in the volatile French politics of the period and as an ominous portent of things to come. A significant, sobering piece of the past, well worth pondering today. Well illustrated with b&w photos, cartoons, etc. A timeline and lists of personalities help keep things straight; bibliography; index.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1991
ISBN: 0595156517
Page count: 156pp
Publisher: Putnam