Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dreyfus Affair Wound Reopens Army Reservist Dismissed for Article That Many View as Revisionist

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Dreyfus Affair Wound Reopens Army Reservist Dismissed for Article That Many View as Revisionist

Article excerpt

A century has passed since the French army framed Alfred Dreyfus, young Jewish captain, on a charge of passing secrets to the Germans, convicted him in a private court-martial and shipped him off to Devil's Island for life.

Everyone involved in the episode died long ago. Eventually Dreyfus was exonerated. He returned to active duty and was awarded the Legion of Honor for service in World War I.

But the Dreyfus Affair - which polarized the country at the time - refuses to go away. Just a few days ago, the affair claimed yet another officer's career.

Defense Minister Francois Leotard summarily fired Col. Paul Gaujac, a reservist who headed the army's historical service, Gaujac got one hour to clear out his desk and his government-paid apartment.

Gaujac's offense? He published an article in the army's weekly magazine that called Dreyfus' innocence "a thesis now generally accepted by historians." The article characterized the furor over Dreyfus' being railroaded as an assault by leftists and radicals on the army, which led to the dismantling of French military intelligence just as Germany was rearming.

Many in France considered the article as evidence of persistent anti-Semitism in the army and a growing trend toward historical revisionism by the political right.

"The army institutions suffer a deep ill," said Madeleine Reberioux, president of the League of Human Rights, which was formed originally to defend Dreyfus. "And it is a long-lasting one."

Gaujac's abrupt dismissal, along with suggestions that other heads may roll, has been a reminder of just how sensitive the affair remains.

"It's very embarrassing for the military," said Denis Lacorne, a political analyst with the National Political Science Foundation. "In fact, all the historical evidence shows he was framed. But there are long family traditions in the military, and the majority are from the anti-Dreyfus camp."

Until the mid-1970s, radio and television stations were forbidden to discuss the affair. …

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