1. THE ARREST
Early on Saturday, October 13, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a junior army officer, was surprised to receive the following notification in his middle-class Paris home in the Avenue du Trocadero:
"Paris, 13 October 1894. Notification to attend. The Deputy Chief of Staff will inspect the officers receiving training on Monday, October 15. Captain Dreyfus, with the 39th Infantry Regiment in Paris, is notified to report at 9 a.m. on that date to the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, in civilian dress."
(Normally "general inspection" was held in the evening, and it was unusual to be required to wear civilian dress.)
At the Ministry, he was received by Colonel Picquart, of Army General Staff, in his office. Dreyfus was surprised to be alone: officers were usually summoned in groups for inspection. After a few minutes, Picquart accompanied his visitor to the door of General de Boisdeffre, the Army Chief of Staff.
To Dreyfus's even greater surprise, he was received instead by a strange, solemn, uniformed officer who introduced himself as "Commandant (Major) du Paty de Clam". At the back of the room stood three unknown men in civilian clothing. "The General is coming," said Commandant du Paty in a strangled voice. He asked Dreyfus to fill out his details on his inspection form. Then du Paty, who affected a black silk glove on his right hand, made a strange request, "I have to write a letter for General Boisdeffre to sign, but I have a problem with my finger. Could you write it for me?" The slow, careful dictation began:
"Paris, October 15, 1894
"Sir, Since it is vital that I immediately obtain from you the documents with which I provided you before I left on manoeuvres, I would ask you to transmit them to me as a matter of urgency through the intermediary of the bearer of this letter, who can be trusted."
"I would remind you that the documents in question are:
1. A note about the hydraulic brake on the 120 canon and how ..."
Commandant du Paty suddenly stopped, saying, "Is something the matter, Captain? You are trembling!"
Dreyfus, still writing, replied, "My fingers are cold."
Why did du Paty suddenly challenge Dreyfus?
"To shake his confidence," he was to explain, giving different versions of his story at different times. Sometimes he would say that Dreyfus seemed, significantly, to be bothered by something; at others, he claimed that Dreyfus was as cool as ice, a sure sign of someone shamming.
"Pay attention, man, this is a serious business." Despite this odd brusqueness, Dreyfus continued to take dictation, trying to write as neatly as possible.
Later, Du Paty wrote that since Dreyfus had regained his self-control, there was no point in continuing the experiment. He therefore rose, solemnly placed his hand on the captain's shoulder, and in a thundering voice intoned, "In the name of the law, I arrest you on the charge of high treason."
THE SPY CASE
This is how the Dreyfus Affair came to the public's attention, on November 1, 1894, in the daily newspaper Le Figaro:
"A MATTER OF TREASON":
"Grave suspicions have led to the detention in custody of a French officer suspected of having furnished foreign nationals with several unimportant documents. The truth must be reported very soon."
A banner headline in the antisemitic, nationalist newspaper La Libre Parole declared,
"High treason! Jewish officer arrested! Captain Dreyfus!"
The press reports were based on earlier versions, according to which as early as September 24 or 26, the army's Intelligence Service had come into possession of documents proving treason. The officer in question had been arrested on October 15. But nothing had been released and the question was, "Why not?"
The treason charge had originated in a document - a "schedule" (bordereau) - recovered from the German Embassy, which apparently reached Commandant Henry of the Intelligence Service on the 26th September through the "normal channels" (the Embassy cleaning woman, Marie Bastian, who removed documents from the Embassy's wastepaper baskets). Henry duly notified his superior, Sandherr, as well as the War Minister, General Mercier. Mercier immediately notified Casimir Perier, the President of the Republic, and Charles Dupuy, the President of the Council (Prime Minister). Right from the start, this was a matter of state.
The schedule began:
"Sir, Although I have not heard that you wish to see me, I am nevertheless sending you some interesting information:
1. A note about the hydraulic brake on the 120 canon and how this component performed;..."
"5. The Draft Firing Manual for Field Artillery (March 14, 1894);
The latter document is extremely difficult to obtain, and I can keep it for only a very few days. The War Ministry sent a specific number of copies to the units, which are responsible for them. Every officer who has a copy has to hand it in after manoeuvres, so please take from it whatever is of interest to you and then hold it ready for me to collect. Unless you want me to get it copied in full and only send you a copy.
I am leaving on manoeuvres."
Commandant Henry submitted the note to the four branches of the General Staff. Because of the nature of the document, investigations were limited to artillery officers. Colonel Fabre, head of Branch Four, and his adjutant - both avid readers of La Libre Parole - found that the handwriting of the bordereau resembled that of an trainee general staff officer, Captain Dreyfus - a Jew. "I might have known," said Sandherr, when informed. The flamboyant Du Paty de Clam was secretly assigned to investigate the matter.
Expert opinions of the text written by Dreyfus at du Paty's dictation were divided. The Bank of France's expert, Gobert, found that although both handwritings were of the same graphic type, there were many significant differences, and the bordereau might have been written by someone other than the suspect. On the other hand, Bertillon, the head of the Anthropometry Department, was in no doubt that the incriminating document was in Dreyfus' handwriting, while Pelletier, ruled Dreyfus out altogether. Searches of Dreyfus' home and questioning by amateur sleuth du Paty de Clam failed to come up with anything concrete. In terms of hard evidence, the case against Dreyfus was slim, as du Paty acknowledged at the end of his report.
At this stage, it would still have been easy to have suppressed the Affair. But the press was eager to whip up public opinion, and to force the army General Staff to move forward. It was at that point that La Libre Parole received a letter dated October 28:
"My dear friend, As I told you, the man arrested on the fifteenth for spying and who is in custody at the Cherche-Midi Prison is Captain Dreyfus, who lives at No. 6, avenue du Trocadero. He is said to be away but - this is a lie, as they wish to hush up the affair. All of Israel is on the move. Yours, Henry."
The following day, October 29, the newspaper published a threatening paragraph:
"Is it true that an extremely important arrest was recently carried out on the orders of the military authorities? The individual in question is said to be accused of espionage. If these reports are true, why are the military authorities remaining silent about the matter?"
This set the rest of the press alight. On the evening of the 31st, L'Eclair, which had obtained its information from a different source, confirmed that an officer--but "not a senior officer"--had been arrested. On the same day, La Patrie spoke of an "Israelite officer attached to the War Ministry". And then the October 31 issue of Le Soir, dated November 1, informed the public that:
"the officer in question was named Dreyfus, that he was thirty-five years old, and an artillery officer attached to the War Ministry."
At 10 o'clock that evening, the Havas news agency confirmed that an officer had been arrested, without giving his name. La Libre Presse initiated its press campaign, which was to rapidly gain momentum and set what was to be the campaign's unvarying anti-Semitic tone.
The reverberations were felt throughout France, as the entire press took the matter up. Dreyfus' name was on everyone's lips. Several ministers learned of the officer's arrest from the press report and immediately demanded a Cabinet meeting, where they complained of not having been informed. Hanotaux continued to oppose taking legal action against Dreyfus, urging caution in the light of the absence of hard proof and the fear of a diplomatic incident. But he was outnumbered, and the government, influenced by Mercier, ordered a preliminary investigation, to be conducted by a military examining magistrate, Commandant d'Ormescheville. He produced character "evidence" in the form of the report by Guenee, one of Henry's agents who came up with detrimental information about another officer of the same name, according to which Dreyfus gambled, had mistresses, was in debt, and so on.
Despite the Minister's reassuring statements (in Le Figaro, Mercier wrote that there was "absolutely no doubt" about the treason), the length of the preliminary investigation began to arouse embarrassing reactions. The press campaign continued unabated: since the proof was so damning, why not find "the Jew" guilty? Was the Minister, perhaps, an accomplice?
Meanwhile, on December 4, 1894 Dreyfus was sent for trial before the first Court-Martial, scheduled for December 19, held largely in-camera.
To the subsequent amazement of everyone familiar with the Affair, the Court-Martial found Dreyfus guilty unanimously. He was sentenced to be stripped of his rank and deported for life to Devil's Island, off the coast of French Guiana.
This decision by the military tribunal, presided by Colonel Maurel, was influenced by two factors:
First of all, Colonel Maurel took the unprecedented step of handing over a secret file to the judges, without disclosing it to the defence. The file contained a despatch from the German General Staff to Military Attache Schwartzkoppen; a letter (called the "Davignon" letter) from Panizzardi, the Italian Military Attache to Schwartzkoppen; an item about "this scoundrel D.", and - lastly - a statement by Henry about remarks of the former Spanish Military Attache, Val Carlos, which were extremely damning for Dreyfus. Although the submission of these documents, concealed from the defence, was clearly a flagrant disregard of the law, the military code and all considerations of equity, apparently none of the judges were aware of this or concerned by it, whatever the value of the documents themselves.
Secondly, the judges were much influenced by Major Henry's statement: "An honourable individual, whom I cannot name, warned me in March that an officer of the War Ministry was committing treason. In June, this same honourable individual further told me, that this officer was attached to Branch Two."
He then pointed at Dreyfus and said, "And here is that very traitor." After mentioning that an officer had to be able to keep a secret under his "kepi" or cap, Henry swore on a crucifix that he was convinced of Dreyfus' guilt. The verdict was reached on December 22. Leave to appeal was rejected on the 31st.
By way of a spectacular climax to the Trial, there had to be a suitable parade to make a major impression on the public's imagination. On the morning chill of January 5, 1895, in the courtyard of the Military College, Dreyfus was accordingly degraded in a ceremony designed to humiliate him in the eyes of all.