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Alfred Dreyfus

Soldier / Political Scandal Figure

Born: 9 October 1859
Died: 12 July 1935
Birthplace: Mulhouse, France
Best known as: The French captain wrongly accused of treason in 1894
Captain Alfred Dreyfus of France was accused in 1894 of selling military secrets to Germany. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, but in 1896 new evidence surfaced that seemed to exonerate Dreyfus. The military tried to suppress the information and failed, and the case became a political firestorm. On the anti-Dreyfus side were royalists, militarists and Roman Catholics. Those defending Dreyfus were republicans, socialists and anti-clerics, including famed author Emile Zola, who was sentenced to jail for criticizing the government's role. The military would not acknowledge any injustice, and the case dragged on until Dreyfus was finally pardoned in 1906. After 101 years, the French army officially said they had been wrong. The affair revealed an institutionalized anti-Semitism in the army and helped unite the French left, eventually leading to the separation of church and state.

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