A Private Affair

  • 1. Letter from Alfred to Lucie
  • 2. Lucie and Pierre
  • 3. Mathieu Dreyfus
  • 4. Alfred Dreyfus in school uniform aged 14
  • 5. Alfred Dreyfus en civil
  • 6. Family Reunion at Carpentras
  • 7. Pierre and Jeanne at the time of the Affair
  • 8. Folding screen with photographs of Pierre and Jeanne
  • 9. Embroidery commemorating Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals
  • 10. Invitation to Alfred and Lucie’s wedding
  • 11. Siddur (Prayer Book)
  • 12. 'La Double Boucle'
  • 13. המחברת של דרייפוס מאי השדים

“At long last, the happy day has come when I can write to you. I was counting the days! I haven’t received your news since the letter given to me last Sunday. What frightful suffering! Every day that I received a letter from you, I felt happiness. The letters are an echo of you all, an echo of your affection warming my poor frozen heart. I read your letter three or four times, I soak in each word, until the written words turn into spoken words and I can hear your voice close to me.”, 31 January 1895, Ile de Ré
This letter, written to Lucie before Alfred reached Devil’s Island, brings alive the ‘private affair’ behind the newspaper headlines. Passionate words of love and devotion reveal a sensitive man, far from the cold officer seen by the outside world.

Letter from Alfred to Lucie
Letter from Alfred to Lucie, 31 Jan 1895
Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, Paris

…“if I die before the rehabilitation, I entrust you with writing my story”, Alfred wrote to Lucie. She was the prisoner’s rock, his source of strength and hope. So was his dear brother Mathieu, the closest of his six siblings; he wrote to Alfred constantly to report of his own progress and lift his spirit. Two days after the degradation ceremony he showed his deep affection: “I like calling you, my dear and poor Fred, with the name I used a long-time ago; it as though by calling you that my thoughts are closer to you, and you feel relief for having me near you.”, 7 January 1895.

Lucie and Pierre, 1891
Lucie and Pierre, 1891
Dreyfus Family Collection
In addition to private letters, the numerous personal objects on display offer an intimate portrait of Alfred and those closest to him: family photos; an embroidery depicting Jewish festivals; the invitation to the couple’s wedding; their ketuba (marriage certificate); Lucie’s prayer book and more. These items recreate the warmth of the Dreyfus Parisian home. The horrors of Devil’s Island are evoked instead by large photos, sketches and maps. These, along with Alfred’s words, remind us of the torment and isolation he endured for five long years.
Alfred Dreyfus in school uniform aged 14
Alfred Dreyfus in school uniform aged 14
Paris, circa 1873, Dreyfus Family Collection 

Theodor-Herzl Rehabilitation at last