In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an officer on the French general staff, is accused of spying for Germany, France's opponent in the last war. The only evidence is a scrap of paper, retrieved from the wastebasket by a cleaning woman, with handwriting that does not much resemble that of Dreyfus. But Dreyfus is Jewish, the only Jew on the general staff. And Jews are considered people without a fatherland, insufficiently loyal to the country they live in.
Dreyfus is convicted, partly on evidence forged by anti-Semitic officers, and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island off the coast of South America. At his public demotion, a crowd - incited by the anti-Semitic press - shouts anti-Jewish slogans. A journalist publicizes Dreyfus's cause, but the real culprit, Major Esterhazy, whose guilt is now known to the government, continues to be protected.
The Dreyfus affair splits France in two. On one side stand the government, the conservative parties, the church and the army, who believe that the honor of the nation may not be sacrificed for the sake of one Jew, guilty or innocent. To the other side rally the progressive forces critical of the regime and its political direction - led by the writer Emile Zola and the politician Jean Jaurès. For them, the affair symbolizes the disregard of justice and human rights in the French republic. More trials follow, but it takes more than a decade - and the fall of the government - until Dreyfus is finally declared completely innocent of the charges.
The affair is followed all over the world. Theodor Herzl, a Jewish journalist from Vienna who covers the trial, concludes that assimilation is no protection against anti-Semitism and that even a person as well integrated as an officer on the French general staff is not safe from the hatred. He comes to believe that Jews will remain strangers in their countries of residence and need a country of their own. His book The Jewish State: A Modern Solution to the Jewish Question is published in 1896 and leads to the founding of the Zionist Organization one year later.
The Dreyfus Affair produced an enormous amount of postcards. This card uses the well-known anti-Semitic image of the treacherous Jew (Dreyfus) in the form of a snake. From the postcard series "Museum of Horror," no. 6 : "The Traitor."
The campaign to rehabilitate Dreyfus was derided by the anti-Semitic press as a Jewish conspiracy. "Judas Defended by his Brothers" shows Dreyfus receiving money from a German, while Jews distribute the pamphlet "A Judicial Error." La Libre Parole, 1898.