Alfred Dreyfus: The Man at the Center of the Affair by Maurice Samuels

Alfred Dreyfus: The Man at the Center of the Affair by Maurice Samuels

Jewish Lives

An insightful new biography of the central figure in the Dreyfus Affair, focused on the man himself and based on newly accessible documents

On January 5, 1895, Captain Alfred Dreyfus’s cries of innocence were drowned out by a mob shouting “Death to Judas!” In this book, Maurice Samuels gives readers new insight into Dreyfus himself—the man at the center of the affair. He tells the story of Dreyfus’s early life in Paris, his promising career as a French officer, the false accusation leading to his imprisonment on Devil’s Island, the fight to prove his innocence that divided the French nation, and his life of quiet obscurity after World War I.

Samuels’s striking perspective is enriched by a newly available archive of more than three thousand documents and objects donated by the Dreyfus family. Unlike many historians, Samuels argues that Dreyfus was not an “assimilated” Jew. Rather, he epitomized a new model of Jewish identity made possible by the French Revolution, when France became the first European nation to grant Jews full legal equality. This book analyzes Dreyfus’s complex relationship to Judaism and to antisemitism over the course of his life—a story that, as global antisemitism rises, echoes still. It also shows the profound effect of the Dreyfus Affair on the lives of Jews around the world.

Year first published: 2024

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