Today in SPY History: Conviction of the Spy Who Wasn’t

 Dr. Thomas Boghardt, Historian

In 1894 the French army obtained a letter revealing that a high-ranking officer was selling secrets to Germany. Suspicion fell on Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer. Ignoring the fact that Dreyfus’ handwriting did not match the letter, an anti-Semitic court convicted him of treason and imprisoned him on a barren island.The military degradation ceremony of Alfred Dreyfus

Eventually the truth emerged: the real traitor was Major Ferdinand Esterhazy, a close friend of an officer in the French Intelligence Bureau. But the military ignored this new evidence until public pressure forced a retrial. Once again, Dreyfus was convicted, and only a presidential pardon eventually secured his freedom. But it took another century until French President Jacques Chirac offered an apology for Dreyfus’ maltreatment, and officially rehabilitated him in 2006.

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