Letter from Alfred Dreyfus to his wife, Lucie, January 31, 1895
This is a translation of a paragraph from a letter that Alfred Dreyfus sent to his wife Lucie on the January 31, 1895 from the prison on Île de Ré:
At long last, the happy day has come when I can write to you. I was counting the days! I haven’t received your news since the letter given to me last Sunday. What frightful suffering! Every day that I received a letter from you, I felt happiness. The letters are an echo of you all, an echo of your affection warming my poor frozen heart. I read your letter three or four times, I soak in each word, until the written words turn into spoken words and I can hear your voice close to me.
The letter was written on official notepaper which was provided to the prisoners. In the middle of the page are instructions for sending the letters.
Alfred Dreyfus was a French-Jewish officer who was wrongly accused of spying for Germany. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment on Devil’s Island. On January 5, 1895, Dreyfus was made to undergo public humiliation in a “degradation ceremony”. He was then transferred to a prison on Île de Ré on the western coast of France where he stayed for a month before being deported. During this time, Dreyfus had the right to see his wife twice a week. Their meetings took place in a long room with each of them sitting at opposite ends and the prison director in the middle. As can be seen in this letter, Dreyfus was also allowed to correspond with his wife.
Links for Further Information
Dreyfus, Histoire d’une famille juive francaise, The National Library Website
Île de Ré, Wikipedia
This letter shows the personal side of the Dreyfus Affair. Teacher of Jewish Studies could use this letter in lessons about the Dreyfus Affair.
Teachers of English or French could use this letter when teaching about letter writing as an opportunity to introduce Jewish topics into the general curriculum.
Who wrote this letter and to whom?
Why was the writer imprisoned?
Summarise the translated paragraph.
What feelings does Dreyfus show in his letter?
How do you think his wife, Lucie, would have felt on reading this letter?
Write an imaginary response from Lucie.