The Traitor, Museum of Horrors, 1900
This is an anti-Semitic poster depicting Dreyfus as a hydra—a monster with the body of a dragon and multiple snake heads. The main head is that of Alfred Dreyfus. The monster is stabbed with a dagger with the words “The Traitor.” The title of the poster is “Museum of Horrors” and it was drawn by V. Lenepveu in 1900.
Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish officer, was wrongly accused of spying for Germany, and in 1894 he was convicted and placed in solitary confinement on Devil’s Island. One of the reasons for his conviction was the anti-Semitic atmosphere rampant in Europe at the time. Only years later, as a result of public protest, was Dreyfus acquitted.
One of the causes for Dreyfus’ accusation was the prevailing anti-Semitic and xenophobic atmosphere in France. For many, a Jew from Alsace, a French region that was annexed to Germany at the time, was an obvious target for accusations of espionage against France.
The anti-Dreyfusard attack was launched shortly after Dreyfus’ arrest by Edouard Drumont and his fiercely anti-Semitic newspaper La Libre Parole. Another newspaper Le Rire, though more moderate, was also filled with caricatures of preeminent Dreyfusards. One of the most virulent examples of the hostile campaign was “The Museum of Horrors,” a series of 51 posters portraying Dreyfus and his supporters as grotesque hybrids of man and beast.
This anti-Semitic poster could be used in history, civic studies, arts, media and communications or even English when discussing the power of posters and media in creating anti-Semitic and xenophobic atmospheres. History teachers could show this resource when discussing the Dreyfus Affair and the anti-Semitic atmosphere in Europe that preceded the Holocaust. Teachers could also use this poster in lessons leading up to Holocaust Day as an example of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Describe the illustration.
Whose head appears in the image?
Whose body appears in the image?
The poster was printed in 1900 during the years of public protest for and against Alfred Dreyfus’ conviction.
Who do you think published this poster?
What message were they trying to convey?
What role did anti-Semitism play in the Dreyfus Affair?
The monster in this poster resembles the hydra from Greek mythology.
Read about the hydra and suggest why this imagery was used to represent Dreyfus in this poster.
Look on the internet for examples of anti-Semitic images from the time of the Nazi regime. Are they similar?
How do you feel when you see these anti-Semitic drawings?
Have you ever seen anti-Semitic propaganda in your surroundings?
What can be done about this?