Colonel sacked in Dreyfus row

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The Independent Online
FRANCOIS LEOTARD, the French Defence Minister, has dismissed the head of the army's historical archives for throwing doubt on the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, whose imprisonment and rehabilitation on charges of spying divided France a century ago.

Mr Leotard, in a one-sentence statement, removed Paul Gaujac, a retired colonel, from his post as head of the army historical service, on Tuesday. The Dreyfus affair, which started exactly 100 years ago this year, was seen as a blatant manifestation of anti-Semitism. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew with the rank of captain, was accused of giving Germany intelligence on French artillery experiments.

Military sources said Colonel Gaujac had to clear out his office within one hour and also forfeited an apartment in the Chateau de Vincennes, which went with the job.

Mr Leotard was angered by an article by Colonel Gaujac that appeared in the army magazine Sirpa Actualites last month in which he described Dreyfus' innocence as 'the thesis generally accepted by historians'.

In his article, Colonel Gaujac also said the captain, supported by the writer Emile Zola in his famous article headlined 'J'Accuse', was backed by people 'mainly recruited in the ranks of the left, particularly among republicans who were dissatisfied with obligatory military service and who found in this case an opportunity to break the military caste'.

Mr Leotard's prompt action followed complaints by some military officers about preparations to mark the Dreyfus affair. His move was apparently designed to end all equivocation.

Dreyfus, who died in 1935, was first sentenced to be deported to Devil's Island for life. He was cashiered at a humiliating ceremony in the Ecole Militaire in Paris. At a re-trial, his sentence was reduced to 10 years. The document incriminating him was later found to be a forgery and its alleged author committed suicide. Dreyfus won an appeal and was taken back into the army, promoted and made a member of the Legion of Honour in 1906.