The Dreyfus Affair was to drastically change the future of the Jewish people. It rapidly became a matter of opinion, and acquired a polemical nature dominated by a class consciousness. Injustice was blatant right from the outset, together with a desire to find a scapegoat. Instantly the Affair set off all those who could not stand the Jews' having been elevated to equal citizens, as well as those driven by a patriotism based on sentiments of revenge. Anti-Semitism put in its appearance during the Affair, in its contemporary form that already linked the Jew with finance and the fifth column.(?) The first signs could already be seen, both in the anti-Semitic press and in movements which brought individuals together, of Vichy France. The ideas were there; they simply had to be given official status. In this sense, the Dreyfus Affair can be considered to be the precursor of a twentieth century which would be even darker for the Jews.
The Affair revealed for the first time the precariousness of the Jews' emancipation. First and foremost, it proved that assimilation was simply an illusion which lasted for a century. One of the greatest protagonists of assimilation, Bernard Lazare, very quickly came to this realization.
Bernard Lazare sprang into action when he understood that anti-Semitism is a permanent phenomenon, and that the only salvation for the Jews lay in a national solution. In Herzl, who was previously also an advocate of assimilation, the Dreyfus Affair awoke an old dream of the Jewish people. As a result, he sparked off what was to be the greatest revolution in Judaism among Jews: Zionism.
The Dreyfus Affair was thus the origin of two events which were to transform the Jewish people utterly in every sense (demographically, geographically, and culturally): namely, the Shoah and Zionism.