Comments on The Dreyfus Affair

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Dreyfus Affair, the 1890s scandal which divided opinion in France for a generation.

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  • Gary McNamara - The Dreyfus Affair

    This Podcast was Gold. What a terrific discussion and - especially in the last three quarters - another example of history's lessons never being learned. Throughout the 42 minutes the canny resemblance of the elements that falsely justified the US's current Iraqi/Afghanistan/Pakistan tragedy.

  • Brian Kelly: Dreyfus Affair

    A very informative programme which went a long way to explaining the divsions and directions taken in French politics in the 20th century.

  • Michael Durnin, The Dreyfus affair

    To answer T Waugh: Esterhazy makes it into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. After being dishonourably discharged from the French army, he escaped to England, and became a correspondent for various newspapers, including the French antisemitic Libre Parole. He was constantly in debt but managed to live a precarious existence as a journalist. He ended up in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, living as Count Jean de Voilemont. He died in Harpenden in 1923 and is buried in the west side of St Nicholas churchyard. A headstone was erected shortly after - appropriately with a false name, Voilemont, and a false birthdate - with an inscription from Shelley: 'He has outsoared the shadow of our night'.I have a question that was not answered in this otherwise fascinating programme: why didn't the court simply sentence Dreyfus to be executed? Surely an army officer accused of spying for the enemy at this time would have faced a firing squad?

  • THEMISTOCLES - The Dreyfus Affair

    The conversation was really interesting to me, because Dreyfus was brought up in a German speaking environment, was a Jew and at the same time a fierce French patriot. A question of importance is how one can be considered as having English or French conscience? How the pride for one's country is born, or even when are you of the same nation? Many people would present a list which includes same language, same religion, same historical identification, your birth etc. The separation of the French state from the church in 1905 implied that religion had no implication on being or not being French and that being a Catholic in the eyes of the 'common good' was not more important than being a cyclist or a swimmer. It became a personal choice. A French Jew was no different from a French Catholic, which leaves all other things in the list such as language, historical conscience etc. I would fully support a common language among many, but I would like to invite you to consider the example of one country, a federation of 26 small states with three major languages (French, German, Italian), with no ethnic homogeneity, no state religion (although many state sponsored official religions), that sees itself as glued together by the values of neutrality, federalism and direct democracy. This is of course Switzerland. The reason I mention it is because this is as a week foundation as you can get, implying that I am proud to be a Swiss because I like the country's law. This is the point. In Switzerland a group of citizens can challenge the law and the constitution directly and bring about a referendum. The big decisions are not decided in parliament but directly by the people. Hence, the people respect the decision and respect themselves. In countries of parliamentary democracy, this self-respect is rare, the respect of law is weak, and you need a metaphysical historical conscience to glue a nation. Hence, church, tradition, and monarchies acquire renewed importance. On the other hand, in democracies the importance of law is maximised. In Athens (5th century BC) the law as decided by the citizens was written on marble. In Switzerland, foreign student who wish to enrol in their universities have firstly to sit an exam on Law and Constitution. A country can be glued solely on law if the law is decided directly by the people; only then it can be truly valued.

  • june lovell--dreyfus

    this program has sparked much discussion in our house, especially appreciated background info providing insight into organization of french army and extent of anti-semitism. thanks for newsletter underscoring levels of dreyfus support internationally. hurrah for queen vic!

  • June Harwood: Dreyfuss

    Absolutely fascinating - the first time I have fully understood the affair despite numerous attempts. Thank you for such a wonderful programme (IOT) - one of the jewels of the BBC.

  • Al Weil; re: The Dreyfus Affair

    I regret that the role played by George Clemenceau in the fight to get justice for Dreyfus was slighted in the presentation. He was the only newspaper editor who would dare print Zola's 'Letter to the President' and he gave it that famous headline: J'accuse... . He then rounded up 100's of newspaper boys to distribute the paper shouting: 'J'accuse.The 88 years-old Clemenceau died 80 years ago on 24 November 1929. I hope you will consider devoting a: 'In Our Time' programme to this hero of our time.

  • Pauline Smith - The Dreyfus Affair

    Thoroughly enjoyed listening tonight. I have learnt so much from Melvyn Bragg's prodgrammes; Melvyn Bragg should never be allowed to retire.Thank you.

  • Sandi Dunn

    8Just listened to the Dreyfus Affair with interest as I am in Paris at present.This is my first visit to this message board so can I ask your editor to ask the website people to get dates on the messages as it is very frustrating not to know when comments were made. Thank you (otherwise I hope those who post put dates on themselves for future readers.)

  • Eoin Dillon Dreyfus and al-Megrahi

    Listening to the program on the Dreyfus affgair, it was difficult not to be reminded of the recent furore over the release of the Libyan, Ali al-Megrahi convicted for the Lockerbie bombing.The evidence against al-Megrahi has been seriously questioned, and some very senior legal figures have questioned the verdict(for an account of the case exonerating al-Megrahi, see the London Review of Books, 24 Sept. 2009. Al-Megrahi forwent a full retrial infavour of release on humanitarian grounds,as Dreyfus accepted a guilty verdict with exonerating circumstances so they could survive a little longer, which allowed various governemnts maintain that they had still been properly convicted, and that no stain attached to their legal process. Unlike Dreyfus,the Arab al-Megrahi was unable to rely on a political moblisation in his defence, rather the government(s)involved were attacked for being 'soft on terorism'. Those eople who recoil in disgust on reading this should remember: that is exactly how the anti-Dreyfusards reacted.

  • t waugh dreyfus affair

    thouroughly enjoyed v informative programme, but was surprised not to find out what happened to esterhazy who was after all thecause of the whole thing because of his spying.

  • Sean Ellman - The Dreyfus Affair

    A great program.Just acouple of things which should have be mentioned in passing if not fully covered as I`m sure they would constitute another program in themselves.The progam failed to mention the impact which the Dreyfus affair had on Hertzl in relation to the foundations of modern Zionism.It also failed to make the connection between late 19th century anti-sematism on the left and early 21st century anti-sematism /anti-zionism on the left.

  • John: The Dreyfus Affair

    The Dreyfus case was an eruption of the latent xenophobia of many Frenchmenat the time of the case.Anti-semitism was an off-shoot of this poisonous growth.This uneducated,visceral anti-semitism equated Jews at one and the same time with foreigners and'money-power',exactly as it did in Hitler's Germany. This inflamed 'spy-fever'. Suspicious of Germany and uneasy in her isolation,the Third French Republic erected the army into a Church,the general staff its priesthood,until a discarded scrap of paper touched off a 12 year scandal which brought down the mighty and altered the climate of Frenchpolitics. Dreyfus was an exception as he'd been made Captain,was a wealthy Jew of Alsation origin.His fellow officers were anti-semite.Dreyfus was guilty by race.Esterhazy was the guilty manspotted by Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart,he was a rogue in contact withSchwartzkoppen,his handwriting was clearly identical to that of the bordereau.The military establishment acquit Major Esterhazy due to no wish to 'substitute'him for Dreyfus. We get the Major Henry forgery of a false letter to establish Dreyfus's guilt beyond doubt.Then Zola' famous 'J'Accuse' to the Presidentof the Republic published inL'Aurore. He accuses Esterhazy's judges,the officers who directed the investigation of Dreyfus,two war ministers,chief and assistant chief of general staff,the handwriting experts,the departments of the war ministery for misleading public opinion.He indicts the 1st court martial for violating the lawin convicting an accused person on the evidence of a secret document;he indicts the 2nd court martial of having covered up this illegality by committing in its turn the judicial crime of knowingly acquitting a guilty person.Too many people in high places had been compromised by the irregularities of the 1st trial,and by the manoeuvres of the 'collusion',willingly to allow light to be thrown on their doings.That Dreyfus was refound guilty with extenuating circumstances shows the fear of finding him innocent and putting the army in the dock.There was amnesty for the army. The forces of anti-clericalism gained the upper hand and the extreme right wing forces of the clergy took the hit,the gulf between the civil and militaryauthorities became wider.The leftist policy of republican defence aimed at reinforcing civil power against clerical and military infringements.As your speakers said this tookthe Church out of French education and it became secularised.It also kept the right wing out of power for a long time.Its political consequences were far reaching following the separation of Church and State in 1904.

  • Ruth Silvestre - Dreyfus affair

    I always listen and enjoy the programme- but this really intrigued me as I have just published a book called Final Performance which deals in part with the murder of the actor William Terriss at the stage door of the Adelphi in Dec 1897. In 1895 Seymour Hicks wrote a play closely based on the Dreyfus affair called 'One of the Best' in which the officer is innocent, disgraced, and eventually pardoned. It was a true melodrama and with the anti-French feeling at the time this was a winner and ran for many months - (in spite of Shaw's review calling it 'One of the Worst'!) Seymour Hicks declares in his book, 'Between Ourselves' that Terriss's murderer , one Richard Archer Prince,a bit-part player already showing signs of madness was finally driven over the edge by being given a cod rehearsal playing the Dreyfus part. So, in its way,the Dreyfus affair had ramifications far beyond the shores of France.

  • Sally Pearson, The Dreyfus Affair

    Have just listened, from France, to your fascinating discussion of the Dreyfus Affair. It was so good to have such a clear, balanced exposé of what happened. My husband and I moved to France from Durham two years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in this country's rich culture, language and history (especially here in the Vendée, which has a unique view of both Revolution and Republic!). Listening to your superb programme will help us be able to deepen our research and give us more snapshots of French and European history please! Thank you to Melvyn and all the contributors - we await Ruth's book with joy!

  • SB/Dreyfus

    Very interesting program on Alfred Dreyfuss and I just want to point out that there is an excellent article about the affair by Adam Gopnik in the September 28 issue of the New Yorker which covers various points not discussed in the program; for instance, that when Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil's Island he was at least provided with books and paper, reading among others Tolstoy, Nietzsche, French classics and especially Shakespeare, teaching himself English in order to read the originals and making notes on them.


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