||Very rare fascinating broadside in French concerning the Dreyfus affair that rocked not only French Jewry and France, but also held the attention of the entire world. The broadside is issued over ths names of several of the most prominent figures in French politics, among them Charles Dupuy president of the Council of Ministers. The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal which divided France during the 1890s and early 1900s. It involved the wrongful conviction for treason of a promising young French artillery officer of Jewish faith and ethnicity, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, and the political and judicial scandal that followed until his full rehabilitation. He ended his career as a Lieutenant-Colonel and actively served during World War I at the end of which he was raised to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor.
Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a graduate of both the elite École Polytechnique and of École Supérieure de Guerre, was a promising young artillery officer in the French Army. His high exit rankings in both these institutions had placed him on a "fast track" which had led to a training position, in 1894, on the Army's General Staff. Captain Dreyfus came from an old and prosperous Jewish family that had made its fortune in a textile business in Mulhouse, Alsace, when that province was still a part of France. After the French defeat in 1871 and the annexation of Alsace by Germany, the entire Dreyfus family chose to remain French and the children - including Alfred - moved to France. In October 1894, in a very abrupt manner, Alfred Dreyfus was arrested and later charged with passing military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. He was convicted of treason by a military tribunal in December 1894 and promptly imprisoned on Devil's Island, a prison island in French Guyana. The conviction was based on a handwritten list (the so-called bordereau) offering future access to secret French military information. This list had been retrieved from the waste paper basket of the German military attaché, Major Max von Schwartzkoppen by an Alsatian cleaning lady in the employ of French counter-intelligence . This retrieved list or bordereau was then promptly passed on to the French War Minister, General Auguste Mercier. The bordereau initially appeared to the French military authorities as implicating an artillery officer because it listed prominently the comportment of the novel and unprecedented oleo-pneumatic recoil mechanism of a new field artillery piece: the French Modèle 1890 120mm Baquet howitzer. Although Dreyfus was in the General Staff, his artillery training, his Alsatian origins and his yearly trips to the then German town of Mulhouse to visit his ailing father had earmarked him for suspicion. Furthermore, the writing on the bordereau was incorrectly interpreted as resembling Dreyfus' own handwriting. Fearing that the right-wing anti-Semitic press would learn of the affair and accuse the Army of covering up for a Jewish officer, the High Command led by General Mercier pressed for an early trial and conviction. By the time they realized that they had very little evidence against Dreyfus (and that what they had was not at all conclusive), it was already politically impossible to withdraw the prosecution without provoking a scandal that would have brought down the highest levels of the French Army (Doise 1984). In other words, the accusations against Captain Dreyfus, soon recognized to be void of any merit, evolved into a massive cover-up to justify the hasty decision to press charges against him.
The subsequent court-martial was notable for numerous errors of procedure. For instance, the defense was unaware of a secret dossier which the prosecution had provided to the military judges. The withholding of this dossier was illegal. As to the initial "why" of the case, the renowned French military historian Jean Doise provides detailed evidence that Dreyfus was used as a patsy or scapegoat through manipulations by French military counter-intelligence (the so-called Bureau de Statistique led by Lt Colonel Sandherr). The purpose of the manipulations was to help convince Germany that the new French field gun was the imperfect, soon-to-be terminated Baquet project listed in the bordereau, instead of the revolutionary French 75mm field gun which was developed in great secrecy at the very same time (1892-1896).
The torn up bordereau found discarded in the waste paper basket of Attaché von Schwartzkoppen was, in fact, a fabrication which had been hand written and delivered by a French-born infantry officer of Hungarian descent, Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. The latter either hoped to extract money from the German Attaché or was, as proposed by Jean Doise, planting a deception in German hands to throw them off the secret 75mm field gun project. The latter explanation fits with the fact that Esterhazy, in spite of being exposed by Colonel Picquart as the real author of the bordereau, was acquitted by French military Justice in January 1898 and let go to retire in England with a pension. Furthermore, and as also proved by the archival records, Walsin-Esterhazy had once been working full-time as a lieutenant on the staff of military counter-intelligence. This episode took place during the early part of Esterhazy's career, before the Dreyfus Affair. In other words and in clear terms, there is verifiable evidence that Major Esterhazy was a past member of the Sandherr counter-intelligence network. Alfred Dreyfus was put on trial in 1894 and was accused of espionage, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison on Devil's Island. He was publicly cashiered: his rank marks and buttons were ripped off his uniform and his sabre was broken. In June 1899 the case was reopened, following the uncovering of exonerating evidence and of the fact that Dreyfus had been denied due process during the initial court-martial. France's Court of Cassation quashed his conviction and ordered a new court-martial. Despite the new evidence presented at his new military trial, Dreyfus was reconvicted in September and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was subsequently pardoned by President Émile Loubet and freed, but would not be formally exonerated until 12 July 1906, when the Court of Cassation annulled his second conviction. He was thereafter readmitted to the army and made a knight in the Légion díHonneur. Dreyfus was recalled to active duty and served behind the lines of the Western Front during World War I as a Lieutenant-Colonel of Artillery though he did perform some frontline duties in 1917. He served his nation with distinction beyond his natural retirement age.