The Dreyfus Affair: In the Public Eye

Ludwig Rosenberer Bookplate

Almost one-hundred years after it captured worldwide attention and threatened to topple the government of the Third Republic of France, the Dreyfus Affair continues to evoke strong response. The espionage trial and imprisonment on Devil's Island of Captain Albert Dreyfus, one of the higest ranked Jewish military officers in France at the time, became a cause celebre for statesmen, religious leaders, writers and others both in France and beyond. Considered to be one of the most infamous anti-semitic episodes in French history, the causes and consequences of the Dreyfus affair are bound up in the political, economic, and social conditions of late nineteenth-century France. The events surrounding the Dreyfus Affair excited considerable popular interest and received extensive attention in the vehicles of popular culture: newspapers, broadsides, journals, song sheets, and serialized penny novels. Popular songs and strident imagery promoted lurid speculations about religious and poitical conspiracies, immoral romantic entanglements, and mysterious back-alley meetings. The exhibit explores contemporary popular perceptions of the affair through these media in examples drawn from the Ludwig Rosenberger Collection of Judaica.