From Dreyfus to Petain: The Struggle of a Republic

From Dreyfus to Petain: The Struggle of a Republic

From Dreyfus to Petain: The Struggle of a Republic

From Dreyfus to Petain: The Struggle of a Republic

Excerpt

When, in 1901, one year before his death,Emile Zola compiled and published his essays on the Dreyfus Affair under the title of La Vérité En Marche, he expressed his conviction that the story of the Affair could not yet be told "in view of the still raging passions and the missing documents." He was right. Thirty years had to pass before the main part of the documents came to light and cleared up this momentous and mysterious Affair.

"Furthermore, time will have to elapse, an interval will be necessary," Zola added, "to be able to examine with complete impartiality these very documents of a hardly surveyable file which will later become accessible." He knew that, in spite of the profuse literature which came into being as a result of the Affair, the greater part of the German side of the story was missing, especially the heretofore withheld testimony of the main character, that man who, acting on orders of the German General Staff, employed Count Esterhazy. This man was Lieutenant Colonel Max von Schwartzkoppen, first military attaché to the German Embassy in Paris from 1891 to 1897.

This German officer kept silent for more than twenty years. He undoubtedly had to. It was not until 1917, in a Berlin hospital, that he, tortured by remorse, made his deathbed confession. Thirteen years later, his posthumous writings were published under the title he himself chose: The Truth About Dreyfus.

The publisher of this work rightly asserted in his preface: "Schwartzkoppen was the principal witness of the Dreyfus trial" (but unfortunately one who never made his appearance). "Now he raises his voice. Now the story of the Dreyfus Affair can be written."

Thus, in 1930, thirty years afterZola J'Accuse, was heard a voice from the grave verifying Zola's accusations word for word. This voice was reminiscent of the ghost of Hamlet's father: it implored and accused. At the same time it seemed that the story could not be true. It sounded like a passage from a horror story. Yet, in comparison with reality, what is the imagination of even the most excessive romanticist who concocts mystery stories? And we are in . . .

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