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January 23: “Dreyfus Will Eventually Be Liberated”

Lawrence Bush
January 23, 2017
New York Times correspondent Harold Frederic wrote from London on this date in 1898 that Alfred Dreyfus “will eventually be liberated, unless, indeed, his jailers take the advice of the Paris mob editors and kill him before slow justice gets to him. In sober truth, I could find nobody of intelligence and education who really believes him guilty.” Nevertheless, Frederic reported, riots in “Nantes, Bordeaux, Marseilles, and elsewhere are frankly anti-Semitic,” with “a single purpose, which is to outrage [rape], plunder, and kill in the Jewish quarters ...” The New York Times report came only days after Emile Zola published “J’Accuse,” his famous letter in defense of Dreyfus’ innocence. Captain Dreyfus would not be exonerated until 1906. Zola’s “display of courage has shamed many scores into stepping forth who had already understood the merits of the case, and his comprehensive, if lurid, discussion of all its convolutions has informed many thousands who had not understood it at all. If things come out all right in the end, it will be Zola, and Zola alone, who is to be thanked.” --Harold Frederic

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.