J'Accuse! BBC calls Alfred Dreyfus a ‘notorious Jewish spy’

Publicity material for new drama repeats the infamous antisemitic libel


Over 100 years after he was pardoned, French army captain Alfred Dreyfus has been accused of spying again… by the BBC.

In a blurb for new Saturday night BBC4 drama Paris Police 1900 the broadcaster described Dreyfus as a “notorious Jewish spy”.

In fact, Mr Dreyfus was the victim of antisemitic persecution, with his conviction for spying ultimately overturned in one of the 19th century’s most famous legal cases. 

The soldier was initially found guilty of treason in 1894 for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans. 

To antisemites, Mr Dreyfus symbolised the disloyalty of French Jews. It was only after the case gained wider attention and it was revealed that key evidence had been forged that the captain was pardoned in 1899.

In 1906 a civilian court overturned Mr Dreyfus’ original conviction and he went on to serve with the French army in World War One. 

The error sparked incredulity from viewers. 

Chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust Karen Pollock said on Twitter she couldn’t understand “how these things aren’t checked and somehow get through”.

Actress Tracey Ann-Oberman asked “are you an actual Nazi propaganda channel?”

Ultimately, however, the BBC exonerated Mr Dreyfus faster than the French state.

The show’s new description now merely refers to the captain as having been “previously arrested for spying”. 

In a statement, the BBC said: “The sentence was not intended as an historical statement, but to reflect the rumours towards the Dreyfus case that we see in the drama - which also depicts the rise of antisemitism.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive