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Death of Clemenceau Recalls Passionate Defense of Dreyfus

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The death of Georges Clemenceau, the “Tiger of France” and war time Premier, has recalled here his passionate fight to save Captain Dreyfus on the occasion of his first trial in 1899 and his whole support of Dreyfus in 1906, when he was retried and released. It was the Dreyfus case that brought Clemenceau back to public notice, although he was at that time out of public office.

Clemenceau and Emile Zola, the novelist, were the outstanding champions of Dreyfus, the Jewish officer on the General Staff of the French army who was falsely convicted at a secret military trial of selling military secrets to Germany and was sentenced to the horrors of solitary confinement for life on the isolated tropical Devils Island.

Five years after Dreyfus had been sent to Devils Island, the suicide of another officer revealed that a forged document had been used to convict Dreyfus. Nevertheless, anti-Semites, Clericals and Nationals fought a reopening of the Dreyfus case. At this point Clemenceau entered the lists on the side of Dreyfus and established the newspaper “L’Aurore” especially for his defense.

With all France divided, and with the anti-militarists and Socialists utilizing the Dreyfus case for propaganda, and with many feeling that the fate of the Republic hung in the balance, Clemenceau published a series of sensational articles demanding a new trial for Dreyfus, and finally published Zola’s famous letter, “J’Accuse,” a damning summation of all the evidence, which eventually compelled the revision of the affair and ultimately the vindication and release of Captain Dreyfus.

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