In France at the end of the year 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer of the French General Staff, was accused and convicted of espionage for Germany. The verdict for Dreyfus was lifelong deportation to Devil's Island. The trial took place behind closed doors. Out of the whole big dossier of the prosecution, only the so-called "bordereau- was shown which was claimed to be a letter, said to be in Dreyfus's handwriting, addressed to the German military attaché, Schwartzkoppen.
As Albert S. Lindemann puts it in his work on modern anti-semitism, "few trials have evoked such passionate attention as the trial of Alfred Dreyfus- (p. 230). Further, he states that people in France were divided into two camps. On one side were the Dreyfusards, who believed that Dreyfus had been framed by a reactionary ingroup in the army high command. On the other side were the anti-Dreyfusards, who believed him guilty and who considered his defenders to be in the pay of the Jewish Syndicate. .
The issues finally ranged far beyond his innocence or guilt. His arrest and following this, his trial, stimulated and changed the nature of the right and the left in France. On the one hand, the Dreyfusards are seen as standing for justice and for the individual, demanding his acquittal whatever reasons of state or military prestige stood in the way. They appear as heirs of the eighteenth century movement of individualism and liberty. Against them were the army, devoted to order, hierarchy, obedience, possessing a different set of values from the republicans, with Catholic officers perpetuating the ideals of the ancien régime. Against them there were also the anti-Semites, who saw in the Dreyfus case an enormous Jewish conspiracy, backed by Protestants, undermining the integrity of the nation. The clergy too took up this cry and the hierarchy refrained from condemning them throughout the affair. For the right, Dreyfus "the traitor- came to symbolize the dangers of allowing "aliens- to gain high position in the French state.