Emile Zola Forced to Flee France After Conviction for Libel Against French Army Hot

Emile Zola Forced to Flee France After Conviction for Libel Against French Army

Emile Zola, 1880

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Dreyfus Affair: Emile Zola is forced to flee France because he's been convicted of libel against the French army for writing J'Accuse, an open letter published in January.

In J'Accuse, Emile Zola accused the French government of illegally imprisoning Alfred Dreyfus for treason. Zola doesn't return to France from England until 1899 after the current French government collapses.

Emile Zola argues that the only reason Dreyfus had been charged, never mind convicted, was because he was a Jew. Dreyfus' conviction is becoming a public scandal because of the critical writings of Zola and other French intellectuals. This produces so much public pressure on the French government that they cannot maintain their coverup and Dreyfus is eventually exonerated and reinstated.

The polarization created by this case between Dreyfusards (supporters of Alfred Dreyfus) and anti-Dreyfusards (anti-Semitic opponents of Dreyfus) will be part of French politics for decades. For example, Nazi collaborators and Vichy government ministers will be primarily anti-Dreyfusards and their families.

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Dreyfus Affair

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