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A Country Divided: Dreyfusards and Anti-Dreyfusards

  • 1. History of an innocent, 1898
  • 2. History of a Traitor, 1899
  • 3. Dreyfus is Innocent (Dreyfus est innocent), December 1898
  • 4. Dreyfus is a Traitor, November 1898
  • 5. Postcard, Italy
  • 6. Dreyfus’s Twelve Apostles, 1899
  • 7. V. Lenepveu, The Traitor. Musée des Horreurs, 1900
  • 8. V. Lenepveu
  • 9. Eliezer Ben Yehuda, Dreyfus will be free
  • 10. Félix Vallotton, At Home (En famille)

​​It is often argued that the Dreyfus Affair split the nation in two. The truth of the matter is that France was already a divided country and the case acted as a casus belli, bringing old differences to the surface. ‘The Jew from Alsace’ encapsulated all that the nationalist right loathed, and therefore became the symbol of the nation’s profound division.

The press, it has been argued before, was primarily responsible for shaping the case into ‘The Affair’. Particularly in 1898-1899, the public campaign became a goldmine for graphic artists and draughtsmen: newspapers, magazines, posters, brochures, postcards and board games drew readers with colorful caricatures, cartoons, and vignettes. It was as though the two camps were taking part in a ping pong match, often responding to the opponent with identical means: a month after a poster entitled Dreyfus is a Traitor appeared, the same format was used for Dreyfus is Innocent; similarly, the comic strip History of a Traitor was the antisemitic answer to the earlier History of an Innocent. L’Aurore published The Game of Truth, the Dreyfusard spin on the traditional Goose Game, L’antijuif replied with The Game of 36 Heads.



Dreyfus is a Traitor
Dreyfus is a Traitor
November 1898
Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, Paris

The anti-Dreyfusard attack was launched, shortly after Dreyfus’ arrest, by Edouard Drumont and its fiercely antisemitic La Libre Parole. Le Rire, though more moderate, also filled its covers with caricatures of preeminent Dreyfusards. One of the most ferocious examples of the hostile campaign is “The Museum of Horrors”, a series of 51 posters portraying Dreyfus and his supporters as grotesque hybrids between man and beast.
Although less gruesome in their imagery, the Dreyfusards did not shy away from sharp satire. On one of its covers, the weekly Le Sifflet showed a cartoon mocking the greedy Edouard Drumont, intent on moulding his next book out of ‘Gold, mud, and blood’. One of the most iconic images of the plight of the Dreyfusards is Truth Emerging from the Well, a painting made in 1898 as a gift to Emile Zola.




Dreyfus’s Twelve Apostles
Dreyfus’s Twelve Apostles, 1899
Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Philadelphia

Away from France’s internal struggles, the foreign press and public largely sided with the Jewish captain. In this context, we felt it was essential to include Hebrew posters, such as that by Eliezer Ben Yehuda announcing Dreyfus’ forthcoming release from prison.
Finally, photographic portraits and letters are there to remind us of the protagonists of the judicial struggle: Mathieu, Alfred Dreyfus’ brother; the lawyer Edgar Demange; Ferdinand Forzinetti, governor of the Cherche-Midi military prison; Zadoc Kahn, Chief Rabbi of France; the Jewish intellectuals Bernard Lazare and Joseph Reinach; Scheurer-Kestner, vice president of the Senate; Georges Clemenceau, then editor of the newspaper L’Aurore and future Prime Minister of France; the socialist deputy Jean Jaurès. And, of course, Colonel Georges Picquart, the officer who overcame his own prejudices to follow his conscience and uncover the real traitor.

"דריפוס יהיה חופשי"
Dreyfus will be free, 1899
Eliezer Ben Yehuda
National Library of Israel

The Dreyfus Affair Emile Zola