"Letter to ..."
Zola Continues the Fight for Justice on the Day of Dreyfus' Pardon
to Ernest Vaughn, Editor of L' Aurore
September 19, 1899.
Eighteen months after the explosive impact of his work famous headline J' Accuse…! in the Paris newspaper L' Aurore, Emile Zola (1840-1902) prepares to write a final summation to the tragic Alfred Dreyfus Affair. He addresses this letter to Ernest Vaughn, Editor of L' Aurore…
“My dear Vaughn, I hear that the pardon of Dreyfus is decided. I intend to write another article for L' Aurore tomorrow to be published the day after the official pardon is made public. I think you'll be inclined to publish the article the evening after tomorrow, but naturally this will depend on the official pardon. The title of the article will be:
“Letter to Madame Alfred Dreyfus.”
Cordially yours, Emile Zola”
Already hugely famous as the author of such French classics as Nana and Germinal, Zola seriously jeopardized his life by publishing accusations that the French Army had lied by making a scapegoat of Dreyfus. After two trials for libel and the loss of his fortune (to pay for legal fees) information came to light which exonerated Zola and set the stage for the pardon of Alfred Dreyfus. This letter, written on the very day of The Pardon demonstrates Zola's continues involvement in righting the injustice done to Dreyfus. Letter to Madame Alfred Dreyfus was published ten days later in L' Aurore. Although Dreyfus accepted his pardon, he continued the exhausting crusade to clear his name. In 1906 he was reinstated in the French Army. Interestingly enough, it was not until September 7, 1995 that the Army officially declared his innocence.
Echoes of the Dreyfus Affair have had a lasting impact on modern Jewish history, providing to many securely assimilated Jews the latent power of anti-Semitic hatred, even in a democratic country. Primary resources with direct content, such as this Zola letter, are of paramount importance.