Lazare, Bernard

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LAZARE, BERNARD (1865–1903), French writer. Lazare was born and educated in Nimes, then went to Paris, where he began to make his way as a writer (publishing several volumes of verse) and also took part in Jewish affairs. He was attracted by the anarchist and socialist movements and worked on a number of periodicals, writing articles which later formed the basis of his book, L'antisémitisme, son histoire et ses causes (1894; Antisemitism, its History and Causes, 1903). In it he maintained that antisemitism could be of some use in bringing about the advent of socialism by teaching hatred of Jewish capitalism; this would inevitably turn into hatred of capitalism in all its forms. His book contains violent expressions against some sectors of the Jewish community, often quoted later by professional antisemites. However, the *Dreyfus Affair shook Lazare's views to their roots and completely changed his attitude on the Jewish problem. He was one of Dreyfus' first supporters and published several books in an attempt to demonstrate his innocence; these include Une erreur judiciaire; la vérité sur l'affaire Dreyfus (1896) and Comment on condamne un innocent (1898). From then on Lazare declared that antisemitism did not help to combat capitalism but, on the contrary, provided it with a safety valve. Assimilation was no more an answer to the Jewish problem than emancipation had been. Lazare therefore came out in favor of a nationalist solution to the Jewish problem, though he had not yet any particular place in view. This development in his ideas led to his participation in the Second Zionist Congress in 1898. However, his intransigence soon brought him into conflict with Theodor Herzl, particularly over the creation of the *Jewish Colonial Trust which Lazare opposed.

Lazare was a close friend of Charles *Péguy, who published his study on the Jews of Romania in Cahiers de la Quinzaine (1902). Péguy included an essay on Lazare in Notre Jeunesse (1910) in which he credited him with a leading role in the Dreyfus Affair: "In this great crisis, the prophet of both Israel and the world was Bernard Lazare," he wrote. Lazare died already practically forgotten.


B. Hagani, Bernard Lazare (Fr., 1919), incl. bibl.; Fontainas, in: Mercure de France (July 1933), 45–71; idem, in: B. Lazare, L'antisémitisme, son histoire et ses causes (1934), preface; Muslak, in: rej, 106 (1941/45), 34–63; Silberner, in: hj, 16 (1954), 30–35; A. Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea (1960), 468–76.

[Simon R. Schwarzfuchs]