Chirac to pay homage to disgraced Jewish officer

12th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 12, 2006 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac of France on Wednesday leads a ceremony in honour of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish army captain whose dismissal more than a century ago on trumped-up charges of spying triggered a protracted national crisis.

PARIS, July 12, 2006 (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac of France on Wednesday leads a ceremony in honour of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish army captain whose dismissal more than a century ago on trumped-up charges of spying triggered a protracted national crisis.

To mark the hundred years since Dreyfus' final rehabilitation, Chirac will conduct a service of homage at the "École Militaire" or Military Academy in Paris - the very place where in 1895 the artillery officer was publicly disgraced before a crowd of 20,000.

"The president will pay homage to the man, to the soldier, to the patriot who fell victim to an appalling judicial error. He will also explain how via the Dreyfus affair the republic and its values became rooted in French society," an aide said.

Dreyfus - a Jew from the Alsace region of eastern France which was at the time occupied by Germany - was found guilty in 1894 of passing secret information to the German military attache in Paris and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Devil's Island penal colony.

But it emerged that the evidence against him was false, and for years a bitter row over the "affair" pitted liberal and left-wing supporters of Dreyfus against opponents on the Catholic right - many of whom made no secret of their anti-Semitism.

In 1898 the writer Émile Zola published his famous 'J'accuse' letter attacking the president of the day for siding against Dreyfus, and the next year he was brought back for a second trial and then officially pardoned  - though not cleared of the charges.

Dreyfus was not fully rehabilitated and restored to his rank in the army until July 12 1906, when the high court of appeal overturned the original verdict.

Chirac has decided not to heed calls for the remains of the officer to be brought to the Panthéon, the former church in central Paris where the nation's heroes - including Zola - are interred.

At the 1895 ceremony - known as a "parade of execution" - Dreyfus' epaulettes were ripped off and his sword was broken in two to the words: "Dreyfus - you are not worthy of bearing arms. In the name of the president, we degrade you."

The ritual was witnessed by Theodor Herzl, a young journalist who was later father of the Zionist movement that led to the creation of Israel.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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