Espionage and Imprisonment

The basis for the charges against Dreyfus was a document with military secrets, also known as le bordereau, discovered by a French cleaning lady working counter-intelligence in the German embassy. After a controversial trial, Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil’s Island, a prison off the coast of French Guiana. He remained there for five years in squalid conditions, allowed a limited correspondence with his wife Lucie but unaware of the efforts being made for his release. In fact, his wife and his brother Mathieu were working tirelessly to prove his innocence. On the other side of the conflict were those who maintained Dreyfus’s guilt, a conviction sometimes tied with his religion. Edouard Drumont, founder of the anti-semitic newspaper La Libre Parole (The Free Word) and author of La France Juive (Jewish France) was a notorious anti-semite who demonized French Jews and held Dreyfus as a prime example of Jewish treachery.