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History's new verdict on the Dreyfus case

July 09, 2006|Stanley Meisler | STANLEY MEISLER, a former Paris correspondent for The Times, is the author of a soon-to-be-published biography, "Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War."

Anti-Semitism in France also continues to revive memories of the Dreyfus affair. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, for example, invoked Dreyfus' name when a gang of youths were accused of torturing to death a 23-year-old Jewish man earlier this year. Meeting with Jewish leaders, De Villepin cited the Dreyfus affair as "the indestructible link uniting the Jews of France and the destiny of the republic." By exonerating Dreyfus, the prime minister explained, France had wielded truth and justice to defeat rumor-mongering and specious claims of national security.

Whether such pronouncements will catapult Dreyfus into the Pantheon of French heroes alongside Zola, as Duclert proposes, remains unclear. Despite a significant campaign to move Dreyfus' remains to the Pantheon, President Jacques Chirac is evidently not ready to order the transfer. Instead, he will lead an anniversary ceremony in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire. But as French historian Antoine de Baecque recently said, the idea of Dreyfus in the Pantheon "would have seemed preposterous a few years ago" but "will sound more sensible from now on."

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