Anti-Semitism at the heart of the Dreyfus Affair

Anti-Semitism at the heart of the Dreyfus Affair

  • The King of the Pigs (Plate n ° 4 from the series Le Musée des Horreurs).

    LENEPVEU Victor

  • The Traitor (Plate n ° 6 from the series Le Musée des Horreurs).

    LENEPVEU Victor

To close

Title: The King of the Pigs (Plate n ° 4 from the series Le Musée des Horreurs).

Author : LENEPVEU Victor (-)

Creation date : 1900

Date shown: 1900

Dimensions: Height 64.5 - Width 50

Technique and other indications: Lithography. Printing of Lenepveu; publisher Léon Hayard, Paris.

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-505827 / 2003.26.4

The King of the Pigs (Plate n ° 4 from the series Le Musée des Horreurs).

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

To close

Title: The Traitor (Plate n ° 6 from the series Le Musée des Horreurs).

Author : LENEPVEU Victor (-)

Creation date : 1900

Date shown: 1900

Dimensions: Height 64.5 - Width 50

Technique and other indications: Lithography. Printing of Lenepveu; publisher Léon Hayard, Paris.

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-505828 / 2003.26.6

The Traitor (Plate n ° 6 from the series Le Musée des Horreurs).

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Publication date: June 2007

Historical context

The Dreyfus Affair, the crystallization of anti-Semitic hatred in France

At the time of these documents, France had been marked since 1894 by the Dreyfus Affair. It was from 1896 and the revelations of Lieutenant-Colonel Picquart on the guilt of another officer, Esterhazy, that this banal espionage affair turned into a scandal, especially after the decision of the War Council to whitewash Esterhazy. in 1898.
French society is split in two. The cause of the Dreyfusards is supported in particular by Emile Zola who in his famous article "Jaccuse" of January 13, 1898, made the Affair public by publicizing the miscarriage of justice. The impossibility for a nationalist fringe of the population to recognize the fault of the military courts but also strong anti-Semitic overtones against "the Jew Dreyfus" explain such an intransigent position. The Antidreyfusards like the author of these documents, Victor Lenepveu, however, continue to ridicule Dreyfus and his supporters such as Zola.

Image Analysis

"The monsters" who support the cause of Dreyfus.

These documents belong to a series of cartoons dating from the years 1899/1900 and aimed at proving the immorality of the Dreyfus cause. This collection is called the Museum of Horrors. Plates n ° 4 and n ° 6 represent Emile Zola and Alfred Dreyfus respectively.
These drawings escape the classic caricature of the time because the faces of the characters are absolutely not distorted and are even surprisingly precise. The author, Victor Lenepveu, wants his readers to identify the characters at first sight. This veracity in the portraits, on the other hand, is accompanied by a monstrous drawing of the bodies. Zola is likened to a pig while Dreyfus is likened to a snake. It is necessary to see the influence of phenomena very in vogue in Europe at the time since ten years ago, in England, Joseph C. Merrick, otherwise known under the name of Elephant Man, was a phenomenon of fair , exhibited against payment. Lenepveu wants to bring the Dreyfusards into a pantheon of monsters, the Museum of Horrors.


Zola's drawing evokes a scatological posture as he brushes the map of France with "poo" and sits in a trough on a pile of some of his novels. The precision of the drawing allows the reader to grasp the message: Zola does not write his works, he produces them in a much less noble way ... His texts may even have a utility other than that of simple reading. On the second postcard, Dreyfus is the main head of a snake. This animal represents sin in the Christian tradition: it is therefore an agent of the evil one, its guilt despite the presidential pardon is beyond doubt. This creature symbolizes a multiple danger. To combat it, do not hesitate to use violence as suggested by the sword stuck in its tail. This weapon also evokes the chivalrous, even medieval, character of the anti-Semitic struggle.

Interpretation

Fear of conspiracy, a basis of anti-Semitism

In anti-Semitic works, such as Jewish France de Drumont, Jews are considered stateless. They are therefore potentially all traitors. The serpent has many heads: Dreyfus is not alone and another act of betrayal can be repeated from the same enemy. The fight against this threat is not over. In the mythological reference to Heracles and the Hydra of Lerna, all heads must fall. Alfred Dreyfus, whose face is highlighted in this drawing like that of a condemned man on the block, acted in concert with the "enemies of the Nation", of which the Jews are the spearhead.
This conspiracy theory is also employed in Plate 4 since it is with "international poo" that Zola sullies the motherland map. The term "international" proves the harmful influences from abroad. The author on the map illustrates the strong nationalist and revenge current by highlighting the Alsace lost since 1871 and the Treaty of Frankfurt. The message is clear, it is through the fault of traitors like Dreyfus or Zola that the Nation has been weakened. This weakening is territorial but it is also intellectual. The choice of books in the pig's trough is not innocent: the nationalist and anti-Semitic right rejects naturalist novels as the Assommoir or Germinal which testify to the difficult living conditions of the working class in French society resulting from industrialization.


The two men are finally perceived differently: Dreyfus is Jewish, he is represented as a traitor by fatality because it is one of the characteristics of his people for an anti-Semite of the end of the 19e century. On the other hand, Zola, by his engagement in the Affair and by his works of a social nature which can justify the socialist demands, chose to betray his homeland. The hatred that the Antidreyfusards feel against him is only stronger.

  • Dreyfus Affair
  • Alsace Lorraine
  • anti-semitism
  • caricature
  • Zola (Emile)
  • nationalism
  • Third Republic
  • Loubet (Emile)
  • working class

Bibliography

Pierre BIRNBAUM (dir.)The France of the Dreyfus AffairParis, Gallimard, 1993 Jean-Denis BREDINThe caseParis, Juilliard, 1993.Jacques LETHÈVECaricature under the Third RepublicParis, Armand Colin, 1961, reissued 1986. Jean-Marie MAYEURPolitical life under the Third RepublicParis, Le Seuil, 1984.Philippe ORIOL (dir.)I accuse ! Emile Zola and the Dreyfus affairParis, Librio, 1998.

To cite this article

Vincent DOUMERC, "Anti-Semitism at the heart of the Dreyfus Affair"


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