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The Southern Israelite. (Augusta, Ga.) 1925-1986, December 14, 1929, Image 3

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The Southern Israelite Page 3 Georges Clemenceau 9 Premier of France, The death of Georges Clemenceau, wartime Premier of France, and popularly known as the “Tiger of France”, has recalled in liberal and Jewish circles his passionate, long dra wn out and in the end successful fipht to save Captain Alfred Dreyfus on the occasion of his second trial in and his whole-hearted support f preyfus in 1906, when the victim of French anti-Semitism and Clericalism was retired and released. Pong before the Dreyfus affair be came an “affaire” Clemenceau was known throughout France for his championing of radical and liberal causes. Fortunately for Dreyfus about the time when the Dreyfus af fair was beginning to agitate France an<i even international circles, Clemen ceau was not holding public office. It was the Dreyfus affair, however, that brought him back to public notice and to public life. While the Dreyfus affair is too well I known as one of the outstanding I "causes celebres", a brief summary of lithe highlights of the case, will aid in II understanding just how important and ■ valuable a part Georges Clemenceau I had in the ultimate vindication of ■ Dreyfus. Alfred Dreyfus was a French soldier born of Alsatian-Jewish par ents, who had gone through the usual course of military instruction with high honors and in 1890 had been ap pointed to the general staff, of the French army. Until he was arrested in 1*94 on a charge of selling mili tary secrets to Germany his name was unknown to the general public. At a secret trial he was condemned to life imprisonment and transported to Devils Island in French Guinea. In the history of jurisprudence, not even the victims of star chamber persecu tion, or in the bloody days of the h rench Revolution, was anyone ever tried with so little regard for the amenities of civilization. hor five years Dreyfus and a little ■group of his friends fought like mad- jmen to focus public attention on the ■ barefaced and high-handed means ■ that had been used to railroad him to la living death. Slowly but surely the Itactics of this group began to make | a r impression in French Liberal circles and soon there came the reali sation that not only was Dreyfus in- n ° Cf ' nt and the victim of the bigotry j°f military officials and the preju- jdice of an anti-Semitic bloc, that the D^ry men who had been instrumental r n ^faming" Dreyfus were themselves implicated in treasonable affairs. It * a ' at this point that Clemenceau be- i fame 'interested in the Dreyfus case. I ‘^ s earl y as 1894 Clemenceau had as- pymed, like millions of other French- r en , Dreyfus was guilty, since a presumably competent military au- r, rity had condemned him. Neverthe- he attacked the military clique brutality in the matter. In . ( his writings were contemptuous ne Dreyfus agitation, which had , tac hed imposing proportions. He why all this fuss about a trait- r "ho has been proven guilty?” Al- mmediately after this, however, ° ne changed. To the efforts of 1 Friend of the Jews Hy BERNARD POSTAL This article, written especially for The Southern Israelite, gives a striking survey of Georges Clemenceau*s attitude toward the Jewish problem and his impressions and views about the Jewish people. His historic defense of Captain Dreyfus is also recalled in this article. The Jewish phase of ClemenceaxTs life, which has been completely overlooked in the general press, was one of the most significant episodes of his career.—The Editor. Scheurer-Kestnir, a Senator from Al sace, we trace the first interest of Clemenceau in Dreyfus. Seheurer- Kestner, as a fellow-countryman of Dreyfus, and a friend of Dreyfus’ brother, had been investigating the Dreyfus affair since 1895, and his in With him it was not merely a mat ter of the government hushing up a blunder on the part of the military authorities, though even this would have been enough to sharpen his zeal. In successive articles, which fairly sizzled with biting attacks, he ridicul quiry convinced him that Dreyfus was innocent. Having met Clemenceau, Scheurer-Kestnar convinced him, too, that Dreyfus had been “framed.” Slowly, but surely, Clemenceau be gan to feel that the revisionists, as the supporters of Dreyfus’ innocence had come to be known, might be right. Every day in his editorials in the “L’Aurore” there was a noticeable change in his attitude in favor of re vision, and by the end of 1891 he had definitely allied himself with the re visionists, and to Clemenceau taking up a cause was not merely a passive matter. ed the idea that “reasons of state” demanded the living death of a man who had had no fair trial. He scorned “veils” and “closed doors.” The strug gle to free Dreyfus indicated to him that familiar old forces of reaction were once more at work. One of these forces was anti-Semitism and Clemen ceau, an Atheist and unbeliever would have no Jew-baiting. In 1898 he wrote a book called “At the Foot of Sinai,” in which he depicts many and varied types of Jews, attractive and other wise, but which in the end scourges unmercifully anti-Jewish prejudice. But Clemenceu was on the look-out for his quondam foe, Clericalism, and he found it. Some unhappy religious writer detected the “finger of God” in the appalling sufferings of the un tried Dreyfus, incarcerated in the hell hole on Devils Island. Answering this article Clemenceau wrote a scath ing editorial which smashed to smith ereens any pretensions to honesty which the Clerical Party may have preened itself on having. The Church Party had long since committed itself and all of its supporting forces against any steps leading to a revision of Dreyfus’ sentence. The entire Dreyfusard agitation came to a smashing climax on January 13, 1H98 with Emil Zola’s famous “J’Accuse.” While Zola, the unflinch ing Liberal and defender of lost caus es, was the author of this terrible indictment of French justice, it was Clemenceau, with his uneering sense of journalistic values, who gave it its passionate name. Zola’s “J’Accuse” came at a time when revisionism had received what to many of its support ers seemed a body blow with the ac quittal of one of the men implicated in the persecution of Dreyfus. This so aroused the “intellectuels” that Zola, their outspoken leader, took up the gauntlet. His eloquent philippic against the enemies of "truth and justice” was like a bombshell. After summarizing the crime French authorities had committed against hu manity in the unjustified persecution of Dreyfus, he concluded his long recital of denunciatory accusations with these words: ‘“I accuse the first court martial of having violated the law in condemning the accused upon the evidence of a document which re mained secret. And I accuse the sec ond court martial of having screened this illegality by order committing in its turn the judicial crime of wilfully and knowingly acquitting a guilty per son.” Zola’s audacious utterances and the revolutionary fervor with which Clemenceau as the chief editorial writer of “L’Aurore” supported him, created a tremendous stir. Before the end of 1898 there came conclusive evidence that Dreyfus had been convicted on a forgery and Cle menceau wrote feelingly that “the whole thing is breaking down,” but on the contrary, the military authori ties insisted on Dreyfus’ guilt and the anti-Semites and Catholics rallied noisily to the support of the “honor of the army.” A new trial was finally granted Dreyfus in 1899 at which, al though he was again found guilty, the court recommended mercy and the government authorities, in order to stem the agitation pardoned him. But Clemenceau and the Dreyfus- ards characteristically and contemptu ously refused to submit to this base equivocation. In December, 1900, the government again tried to lay the storm by passing an amnesty bill for Dreyfus. Clemenceau riddled that full of holes. Periodically he collected his articles in a thick volume. Seven such were published between 1898 and 1899 and a stream of fire still ran from his (Continued on Page 12)