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.
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.