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December 2: The Vatican and the Dreyfus Affair

December 2, 2014
Alfred-Dreyfus-1910The official newspaper of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, commented on this date in 1897 (some sources say 1898) on the arrest and trial of Alfred Dreyfus as “hardly surprising if we again find the Jew in the front ranks, or if we find that the betrayal of one’s country has been Jewishly conspired and Jewishly executed.” The Jews, said the article, were “the deicide people, wandering throughout the world, bearing with it everywhere the pestiferous breath of treason...” Therefore “Jewry can no longer be excused or rehabilitated. The Jew possesses the largest share of all wealth, movable and immovable... The credit of States is in the hands of a few Jews. One finds Jews in the ministries, the civil service, the armies and the navies, the universities and in control of the press... If there is one nation that more than any other has the right to turn to anti-Semitism, it is France, which first gave their political rights to the Jews, and which was thus the first to prepare the way for its own servitude to them.” Anti-Semitism, the article concluded, “ought to be the natural, sober, thoughtful, Christian reaction against Jewish predominance” and “is and can be in substance nothing other than Christianity, completed and perfected in Catholicism.” Captain Dreyfus was pardoned by the president of France in September, 1899, but it would take until 1906 for him to be exonerated and restored to his military rank. A year earlier, the Radical party, charging the Catholic church with complicity in the Dreyfus Affair, succeeded in passing legislation separating church and state in France. “Ah, what a cesspool of folly and foolishness, what preposterous fantasies, what corrupt police tactics, what inquisitorial, tyrannical practices! What petty whims of a few higher-ups trampling the nation under their boots, ramming back down their throats the people’s cries for truth and justice, with the travesty of state security as a pretext.” —Emile Zola, J’Accuse