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184 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 study backward-looking "Polish-style" economic antisemitism in the early modern period? Daniel Stone Department of History University of Winnipeg Dreyfus: A Family Affair, 1789-1945, by Michael Burns. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 576 pp. $30.00. My initial reaction to Michael Burns' Dreyfus: A Family Affair, 1789-1945 was a jaded one. I asked myself what more could possibly be written and said about an affair that already has an extensive bibliography covering every aspect of the affair as well as its broader political and social implications. After reading several paragraphs, it became clear that Michael Burns' book is, nevertheless, a contribution to this large bibliography. His originality lies in making it clear from the first paragraph that his primary concern is not the Dreyfus affair per se, but the intimate and tragic details of the Dreyfus family. While the Dreyfus affair is what gives this family its particular historical importance, the tragic events that Burns presents happened to many other French families ofJewish origin. In this respect, the history of the Dreyfus family is an insightful reflection on the history of French Jews following the initial promises of the French Revolution of 1789. The tragedy of the Dreyfus family is only indirectly linked to what happened to Alfred Dreyfus; the real tragedy was the failure of French society to live up to both of the promises of the French Revolutionnamely , the liberation and integration ofJews into French society on the basis of equality. The French Revolution succeeded in the first taskliberating Jews from their second-class status and according them full recognition as French citizens. However, French society would, in many respects, fail miserably in the integration of French Jews. What Burns's intimate account of the Dreyfus family shows is that the failure was in no way linked to an unwillingness on the part ofJewish families such as the Dreyfuses to integrate. Indeed, the word integration is misplaced, since Jacob Dreyfus, Alfred Dreyfus' grandfather, seized the opportunity provided to him and other Jews located in the eastern Alsatian region of France by the Revolution to move out of their social isolation and marginal economic positions that traditional Catholic society assigned to them, and into the mainstream of French social and economic life. Book Reviews 185 . In fascinating detail, Burns narrates the transformation of the Dreyfus family from rural merchants and money-lenders to highly respected members ofthe Protestant-Jewish industrial elite in Mulhouse. While Jacob Dreyfus represented the gradual shift between the traditional]ewish world of his father, his son, Raphael, came to represent the generation ofJews who sought to assimilate their children fully into French cultural, economic, and social life. Raphael Dreyfus joined the ranks of the Mulhousian textile producers who contributed, in no small way, to France's initial spurt of industrialization in the early nineteenth century. He saw to it that his children spoke French in the home, a language that he spoke less well than German. He gave all of his children French names, and "by the late 1850's Raphael had abandoned the Germanic spelling of his family name; also, along with other members ofthe Jewish community, he had rejected some of the constraints of Orthodoxy and had adopted French customs of dress and more" (p. 40). Emphasis was placed on assimilation. For Jewish families such as the Dreyfuses, the sporadic outbreaks of antisemitism appeared to be a passing phenomenon, surely to decline as the century progressed. It is within this mind-set that Raphael Dreyfus' children approached the future. They saw themselves as French and assumed that every sector of French society would be open to them. This optimistic spirit was reflected in Alfred Dreyfus' decision to pursue a military career. Such a decision was premised on the assumption that the second promise of the French Revolution would be upheld. Obviously, acceptance of a Jew in the higher echelons of the French military, an institution dominated by Conservative Catholics, would have been resounding proof that the principles ofequality, fraternity, and liberty had triumphed. Alas, this was not the case. Alfred Dreyfus would discover that the depth of antisemitism in French society was profound...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 184-186
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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