Pro-Dreyfus Postcard, Italy
This is a postcard from Italy showing a female figure with the word Umanitas (humanity) written on her dress. The woman, who might be a nun, is holding the scales of justice and a sword and trampling on a snake. She is looking towards the sun that shows the words veritas (truth).
Next to the figure is a circle with the image of Dreyfus and the text: “I am innocent.”
Under the image of Alfred Dreyfus are three circles upon which are engraved the words: hope, persistence, courage.
This postcard was printed during the years of the Dreyfus Affair in which French-Jewish Officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused of treason. Dreyfus was found guilty of spying for Germany and sent to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. However, the story did not end there. In French society many were still fighting to prove Dreyfus’ innocence. Others, however, believed that Dreyfus was guilty and saw his treason as representative of the Jews. This postcard was printed during the years of public protests and shows the influence of the Dreyfus Affair on the public in other European countries.
This postcard is an example of the public struggle to prove Alfred Dreyfus’ innocence in Italy. It could be presented in General or Jewish History lessons when teaching about the significance of the Dreyfus Affair in the history of Jewish people at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. This is also an interesting image concerning public protest and could be used in Citizenship or Art lessons to discuss the use of posters and images in the struggle for human rights and political campaigns.
Describe the postcard.
What is the scenery?
What does the woman look like? What is she doing? What is she holding in her arms? What is she trampling with her feet?
Which character appears in the circle underneath the palm leaf?
What is written next to this character?
What is written above the sun?
What is written on the circles at the bottom of the postcard?
What do the different elements in the postcard represent?
Alfred Dreyfus was Jewish and many of his opponents held anti-Semitic views.
Do you think that this postcard was printed by Jews?
Are there any Christian motifs in the postcard?
Is this significant and how?
Find other postcards, posters, or placards used by the different sides in the Dreyfus Affair.
Which sides printed them—the Dreyfusards or the anti-Dreyfusards?
What imagery did they use to prove their point?
The Dreyfus Affair was an example of a struggle to prove the innocence of a person wrongly accused due, mainly, to racism and xenophobia.
Do you know of any other examples of such struggles?
Who was accused and what were they accused of?
What was the outcome of this struggle?
People such as Alfred Dreyfus, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi were imprisoned for political reasons.
Find out about these famous people and draw a postcard conveying the message that they should be freed.