An Intimate Journal of the Dreyfus Case, by Maurice Paleologue
If the Dreyfus case continues to fascinate one more than fifty years after its close, this is not because of the qualities of its protagonist. Alfred Dreyfus was a petty man, accidentally entangled in a web he never understood. Those who got to know him well were shocked to realize that his respect for rank and for the army that persecuted him were so great that he would no doubt have voted for his own conviction had he been a member of the court-martial. Nor, in fact, was anti-Semitism the central issue. Dreyfus was a Jew, but that was not why he was victimized. Anti-Semitic passions figured in the case, but only toward the end, and even then they confused rather than helped to explain the fierce loyalties that divided Dreyfusards from anti-Dreyfusards.
The case became a world-wide issue because it revealed that the corrupt survivals of France’s old regime were incompatible with the spirit and the structure of a democratic state. The line that divided the Dreyfusards from their opponents divided the 20th century from the past. Suddenly it became clear that the ugly anachronistic relics of earlier compromises that still cluttered the European social scene were serious threats to men’s liberties. That is why new evidence on the case still attracts our interest. Even now, after all the participants are dead and gone, there is still drama in the basic historical issues.
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