Dreyfus case

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Dreyfus case. Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935) was a Jewish officer in the French army accused of betraying French military secrets to the Germans in 1894 and condemned to life imprisonment. He remained on Devil's Island in solitary confinement until 1898, when it was discovered that much of the evidence against him had been forged. At a retrial, the military court refused to admit the error, and found Dreyfus guilty, but with extenuating circumstances. He was sentenced to a further ten years' imprisonment. Two weeks later he was pardoned and reinstated in the army. The affair prompted anti-Semitic riots on the one hand, and enormous liberal agitation on the other, including an open letter from the novelist Émile Zola. Dreyfus was completely exonerated, but the whole affair made a strong impact on the Jewish community and led Theodor Herzl in particular to Zionism. Among Roman Catholics, the affair (apart from evoking the latent anti-Semitism in pre-Vatican II Catholicism) is usually held to have retarded the adaptation, which the Church eventually had to make, to being an independent institution within a secular society in France.