Alfred Dreyfus’ Wedding, April 21, 1890
These documents are the invitation to the wedding of Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus and their Ketubah (wedding contract). The Ketubah is written in both Hebrew and French. Its title states: Consistoire Israelite de Paris (the Jewish Consistory of Paris). The witnesses signed the Ketubah in Hebrew and Alfred Dreyfus, the groom, signed in French. The Ketubah states the names of the bride and groom, the date of the wedding — April 21, 1890 — and the various traditional legal clauses.
The text of the wedding invitation reads:
Monsieur Raphael Dreyfus has the honour of sharing with you the marriage of his son Monsieur Alfred Dreyfus, captain of artillery, adjutant at L’École Pyrotechnie, Bourges to Mademoiselle Lucie Hadamard.
Please also attend the nuptial blessing which will be given to them on Monday, April 21 at precisely 2 o’clock at Temple Israélite, 44, Rue de la Victoire, Paris.
There are several details to note in this invitation. First, the invitation was sent only by Alfred Dreyfus’ father; his mother, Jeanette, had died a few year earlier. Another point of interest is the level of detail about Alfred’s military career. While this might have been a custom of invitations at the time, it probably also demonstrates the father’s pride in his son’s achievements. Even though Alfred was not a traditional Jew, he was married at the Great Synagogue of Paris on Rue de La Victoire. As can be seen on the Ketubah, the ceremony was officiated by Zadoc Kahn, the Chief Rabbi of France, who was later to advocate for Dreyfus' freedom. Finally, the invitation was sent from Mulhouse, Alsace. It seems that after moving from Alsace during the Franco-Prussian War, members of the Dreyfus family returned to Alsace. Alfred, on the other hand, stayed in Paris to pursue his military career.
These documents show the normal life that Alfred Dreyfus led before September 1894 when he was accused of treason.
Alfred Dreyfus was born in 1859 to a wealthy family in Mulhouse, Alsace, which is in eastern France. He was the youngest of Raphael and Jeannette Dreyfus’ nine children. When Alfred was 10 years old, the Franco-Prussian war broke out and Alsace was annexed to Germany. The Dreyfus family chose to move to Paris. Due to his childhood experiences of war, Dreyfus decided to join the French army on his 18th birthday. In 1877, he joined the prestigious École Polytechnique military school in Paris. He graduated in 1880 and later attended an artillery school for specialised training. After serving as an officer of a mounted artillery battery, he was made adjutant to the director of the “Bourges”, a government arsenal, and promoted to captain.
In 1891, Dreyfus married Lucie Hadamard, and they subsequently had two children, Pierre and Jeanne. Three days after his marriage, he was admitted to the École Supérieure de Guerre (War College). Dreyfus graduated ninth in his class and was accepted as a trainee in the headquarters of the General Staff– the only Jew in this position. In his final exams, however, General Bonnefond declared that “Jews were not desired" on the staff and gave Dreyfus low marks for likability.
A Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract signed by the groom and two witnesses which outlines the groom’s responsibilities toward the bride. Reading the Ketubah aloud is an integral part of a traditional Jewish wedding.
Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus’ Ketubah was published by the French Jewish Consistory (Consistoire Israélite de Paris). This was a branch of the French national institution set up by Napoleon I in 1808 to administer Jewish worship and congregations throughout France. Regional Jewish consistories, subordinate to the Central Consistory, were established all over France. Following the separation of religion and state in 1905, the consistories lost their legal status, but the name is still used to describe the organisation of Jewish congregations.
Alfred and Lucie’s wedding took place at La Victoire Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue of Paris. It is the largest synagogue in France and has remarkable dimensions and architecture. It was built in 1874 by the chief architect of Paris, Alfred-Philibert Aldrophe, with the financial support of the Rothschild family. The La Victoire synagogue is still active today and serves the French community for all official ceremonies. It is also the official seat of the Chief Rabbi of France. It seats over 1,800 people, and the orthodox services are conducted according to the Ashkenazi-Alsatian tradition. This might explain why Alfred Dreyfus, originally from Alsace, chose to get married at this synagogue.
Alsace, the area from which the Dreyfus family originated, is situated in the east of France. To the west of this region is the Rhine river that separates France from Germany.
The history of the Jews in Alsace is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to around 1000 CE. Although Jews in Alsace often suffered from pogroms and restrictions on business and movement, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the region since the first records. At its peak, in 1870, the Jewish community of Alsace numbered 35,000 people. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, Germany annexed Alsace until the aftermath of World War I when, under the Treaty of Versailles, the region was returned to France. In 1940, during World War II, Alsace was re-annexed to Germany, and many of its Jews were deported or fled to other parts of France and the world.
The Dreyfus Affair occurred during Alsace’s annexation to Germany. The fact that Alfred Dreyfus was born in Alsace is seen as one of the reasons why he was suspected as a German spy.
Links for Further Information
The Dreyfus Affair, Wikipedia
Dreyfus – the Story of a Jewish French Family, The National Library of Israel
The History of the Jews in Alsace, Wikipedia
These documents show the early family life of the Dreyfus family. The Ketubah and the wedding invitation could be shown in General History or Jewish Studies lessons when teaching about the Dreyfus Affair. The documents could also be used to illustrate the history of the Jews in France and Europe in the nineteenth century.
The Ketubah could also be used in lessons dealing with the Jewish life cycle. It is one example of thousands of Ketubot that can be found in the Ketubah Collection of the National Library of Israel.
What are these documents?
What is a Ketubah?
Describe the Dreyfus’ Ketubah.
What is the title of the document?
In which language is the document written?
Who signed the document?
What can you learn from the fact that the Ketubah is also written in French and that Dreyfus signed in French?
Read the translation of the wedding invitation.
Why do you think only Alfred’s father’s name appears on the invitation?
Why do you think Raphael Dreyfus wrote about his son’s career on the wedding invitation?
Where did Raphael Dreyfus live at the time of sending the invitation?
Look up information about Jews in Alsace.
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Do you think the fact that Alfred Dreyfus was a Jew from Alsace influenced the Dreyfus Affair?
Alfred and Lucie’s wedding took place in the La Victoire Synagogue.
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