December 22 - 1894 - Alfred Dreyfus is Convicted of Treason
In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus was simply a junior artillery officer in the General Staff of the French Army. Then, he was accused of being the person responsible for passing secrets onto the German military attache in Paris. In a quick, closed military tribunal, Dreyfus was easily convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil's Island in French Guiana. The fact that Dreyfus was Jewish inflamed the anti-Semitic French press, and his Alsatian background meant he was fluent in German. Yet his family began working to prove his innocence, helping a new investigation to finger the real culprit, Major Ferdinand Walsy Esterhaszy. Esterhaszy began to be protected by military leadership, which only heightened tensions among Parisian society. The novelist Emile Zola would explode the case once Esterhaszy was acquitted and went into self-imposed and well-funded exile. Zola's actions, along with the agitation of Parisian intellectuals, caused Dreyfus to face a new trial, where he was once again convicted. The entire case, known as the Dreyfus Affair, had become so problematic, a pardon was offered Alfred Dreyfus in 1899. By 1906, he would be fully exonerated and his commission was reinstated.