13 January 1898
One word says it all, as Emile Zola put the French Army on trial for anti-Semitism. On this date, the Paris newspaper L'Aurore carried the letter, written by Zola, accusing the Army of convicting Alfred Dreyfus, the only Jew on the general staff, on false charges of spying on the French for the Germans. Dreyfus had been convicted in 1894 in a very public court case and sent to Devil's Island. Four years later the Army arranged the acquittal of the officer whom they knew was the guilty party. Zola, among others, did not take kindly to that. The Army did not take kindly to Zola's letter and put him on trial for libel. He was found guilty and fled to England. But his letter brought the case back into the public eye, and Dreyfus was given a second trial in 1899.
However, the French were beginning to realize the depth of the Army's corruption and anti-Semitism, and eventually Dreyfus gained a pardon and in 1906 was cleared of all charges. He eventually served in World War I. Zola wasn't around to see it, however, as he died in 1902 when he was asphyxiated by fumes from a faulty chimney. Some say his enemies blocked the flue. Oh, the cloak-and-dagger of it all!
Over one hundred years later, Europe is still dealing with anti-Semitism. Charming how some things never change. And Zola's one-word headline still rings with bitterness and shame.