The Antisemitic Riots of 1898 in France

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Historians are only just beginning to take the study of what Georges Sorel called ‘la révolution dreyfusienne’ beyond the courtroom and the newspaper, and thus, despite the volume of literature devoted to ‘the Affair’, many of its main features as a socio-historical phenomenon have remained shrouded in the clouds of metaphysical drama. A prime example of diis conspiracy of silence is provided by die antisemitic riots of 1898. The historian Jules Isaac, himself the son of a Jewish army officer like Dreyfus, had reason to remember that year when, he recollected in old age,’ …la France semblait revenue au temps des guerres de religion; la possibilité d'une nouvelle Saint-Barthélémy - contre les Juifs et Protestants, bon gré mal gre associés dans la tourmente - n'était pas exclue’. However, if one turns to general histories of die period and of ‘ die Affair’, one finds litde or no mention of what was the main popular movement of the time in diis direction, indeed die high-point of active popular involvement, in the whole Dreyfus Affair: die riots of January and February 1898. From die administrative and police reports it is possible to redress die balance, and to establish how serious and how widespread diese riots really were, and to place diem in die wider perspective, not only of French antisemitism, but also of popular emeutes in general in nineteendi-century France. First it will be necessary to analyse die riots diemselves in some detail

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... The liberalisation of the press also limited the banning of A. Boum 556 newspapers. 10 These colonial policies in Algeria enabled anti-Semite leaders such as Max Régis (Ayoun 2001) to gain power in universities and the public administration (Wilson 1973;Dermenjian 1983;Hebey 1996). ...
In the late 1920s, Bernard Lecache founded the International League Against Anti-Semitism (LICA) in Paris to raise public awareness in France and other European countries about hatred of Jews and to mobilise Jews and non-Jews to take action against racial and ethnic discrimination. The rise of anti-Semitic discourse in the French Algerian press and other North African circles which culminated in the riots of Constantine in August 1934 led the European leadership of the LICA to establish branches in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Based on the correspondence between the headquarters of LICA in Paris and its North African chapters between 1936 and 1940, this article discusses the membership and activities of LICA in North Africa prior to the rise of Vichy. I argue that despite the efforts of LICA to encourage strong relations between Muslims and Jews, the anti-Semitic environment among French settlers, the German propaganda machine in North Africa and the situation in Palestine hindered plans for a Jewish–Muslim rapport in North Africa prior to the Second World War.
There have been moments when one individual has reshaped destiny’s patterns. In mid-January 1898 the case of the bordereau was over. Dreyfus had been convicted and Esterhazy acquitted. Picquart was arrested, Scheurer-Kestner defeated. Then Zola — that deeply flawed egotist with his novelist’s sense of the dramatic — transformed the landscape. ‘Mr President’, he wrote to Faure in L’Aurore on 13 January, I accuse Lieutenant-Colonel du Paty de Clam of having been the diabolical agent of a judicial error… I accuse General Mercier of having made himself an accomplice… I accuse General Billot of having had in his hands absolute proof that Dreyfus was innocent and of having suppressed it… I accuse General Boisdeffre and General Gonse of making themselves accomplices to the same crime… I accuse General de Pellieux and Commandant Ravary of having conducted a villainous inquiry… I accuse the Ministry of War of having led an abominable press campaign… I accuse, finally, the first court martial of having violated the law by condemning a suspect on the basis of a document unknown to him, and I accuse the second court of having covered up this illegality under orders by committing in its turn the judicial crime of knowingly acquitting a guilty man.
On Thursday 13 January 1898, the newspaper L’Aurore went on sale as usual. But the 13 January issue was rather special. Anticipating huge sales, the newspaper’s directeur Ernest Vaughan and its editor-in-chief Georges Clemenceau had organised an extensive publicity campaign and authorised the employment of hundreds of extra news vendors; within a few hours over 200,000 copies of the newspaper had been sold. The reason? Under the screaming headline ‘J’Accuse …! Lettre au Président de la République par Émile Zola’ (I Accuse …! Letter to the President of the Republic by Émile Zola) appeared an open letter to Félix Faure in which the internationally renowned novelist Émile Zola launched a blistering attack on named members of the military establishment accusing them of not only condemning, in 1894, an innocent fellow-officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, to be transported for life to Devil’s Island in French Guyana but also of participating in a carefully orchestrated cover-up of their activities.
This paper examines the role of anti-Semitic municipal governments and their political practices in French colonial Algeria during the interwar period. It traces the developments in anti-Semitic politics in elections for municipal governments in the 1920s and 1930s. In this time, anti-Semitic politics experienced a renaissance and surge in power in the colony. Voters in Algeria fell prey to the rhetoric of anti-Semitic politicians who promised to remove Jewish competition from their lives and eliminate Jews from politics. Furthermore, anti-Semitic municipal governments reverted back to the methods of their late nineteenth century forebears who used the power of municipal government to remove Jewish voters from elections and thereby eliminating their electoral competition. The increase in power of these anti-Semitic municipal governments coincided with the development of the Popular Front in France and reflected the growing anti-Semitism of the electorate in France and her colonies.
Anti-Jewish riots in Europe of the last 200 years show specific clusters in terms of the phases and regions, in which there were specific causes for the outbreaks of collective violence. In an historical analysis five phases are chosen as exemplary for escalations of the level of destruction: the phase from 1819 to 1880; the two Russian pogrom waves of 1881–1883 and 1903–1906; the pogrom wave that took place in the context of the founding of the Polish nation-state; and finally, the pogroms accompanying the beginning of the German military campaign against the Soviet Union in 1941. It can be shown that in crisis situations like revolutions, war, and regime change, which are characterized by how the status of groups change or threaten to change rapidly, violence is deployed as a means for reversing social status and affirming the dominant status of the majority group. In these situations, state control is either absent or weak, which opens up opportunities to act; in addition, the control authorities of the state itself may become actors in the violent actions. Thus forms a favorable opportunity structure for pogroms that also demonstrate a high level of violence.
L'Affaire Dreyfus, comme l'Amédée d'Ionesco, est un cadavre qui pousse. Du moins pourrait-on le croire. Comment s'en débarrasser ? C'est la question que bien des livres qui en traitent semblent se poser ; et de conclure qu'il n'y a pas d'Affaire Dreyfus. Mais bientôt un nouveau livre paraîtra pour enterrer à nouveau un mort si terriblement vivace. Deux petits ouvrages publiés en 1960 font preuve d'un louable désir de présenter le sujet sous un jour nouveau, tous deux destinés d'ailleurs au grand public ; le compte rendu en serait donc rapide, s'ils ne posaient l'un et l'autre, quelques problèmes importants qui débordent leur propos.
The Ligue Anti-sémitique Française, 1897–9
  • Wilson