Alfred Dreyfus

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Alfred Dreyfus (French pronunciation: [alfʁɛd dʁɛfys]; 9 October 1859 – 12 July 1935) was a French artillery officer of Jewish background whose trial and conviction in 1894 on charges of treason became one of the most tense political dramas in modern French and European history. Known today as the Dreyfus Affair, years later Dreyfus was completely exonerated.


Early life

Born in Mulhouse (Mülhausen) in Alsace, Dreyfus was the youngest of seven children born to Raphael and Jeannette Dreyfus, a prosperous, self-made, Jewish textile manufacturer who had started as a peddler. The family moved to Paris from Alsace after the Franco-Prussian War, when in 1871 Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by the German Empire. The Dreyfus family had long been established in the area that traditionally had been German-speaking, and Raphael spoke Yiddish and conducted business affairs in the German language. The first language of most of Alfred's elder brothers and sisters was German or one of the Alsatian dialects. Alfred and his brother were the only children to receive a fully French education.[1]

In 1880, Dreyfus graduated as a sub-lieutenant from the elite École polytechnique military school in Paris, where he received military training and an education in the sciences. His entry into the military was influenced by his experience of seeing Prussian troops enter his hometown in 1871 when he was eleven years old. From 1880 to 1882, he attended the artillery school at Fontainebleau to receive more specialized training as an artillery officer. On graduation he was attached to the first division of the 32nd Cavalry Regiment and promoted to lieutenant in 1885. In 1889, he was made adjutant to the director of the Établissement de Bourges, a government arsenal, and promoted to captain.

On 18 April 1891, Dreyfus married Lucie Hadamard (1870–1945). They had two children, Pierre (1891-1946) and Jeanne (1893-1981).[2] Three days after the wedding, Dreyfus received notice that he had been admitted to the École Supérieure de Guerre or War College. Two years later, in 1893, he graduated ninth in his class with honorable mention and was immediately designated as a trainee in the French Army's General Staff headquarters, where he would be the only Jewish officer. His father Raphaël died on 13 December 1893.

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