In 1898, the Dreyfus Affair plunged French society into a yearlong frenzy. In Paris and provincial villages throughout the country, angry crowds paraded through the streets, threatening to attack Jews and destroy Jewish-owned businesses. Anger about the imagined power of Jewish capital, as well as fears of treason and racial degeneration, made anti-Semitism a convenient banner behind which social and political factions could fall in line. Anti-Semitic feelings that had been simmering in France for decades came boiling to the surface.
Here Pierre Birnbaum guides readers on a tour of France during this crisis. He shows that in the midst of violence, Jewish citizens bravely and effectively defended themselves and were aided by a police force determined to maintain order. Birnbaum paints a vivid portrait of French Jewish culture at the time and explains why the French state remained strong in this time of widespread unrest.
Pierre Birnbaum is visiting professor of Jewish studies at Columbia University. A number of his works and edited collections have been published in English, including Anti-Semitism in Modern France, The Jews of the Republic, and Paths for Emancipation.