This kindly, grandfatherly gentleman was notorious in his youth as an officer of the French military, wrongly accused of treason, tried, and summarily consigned to Devils Island. The verdict against Alfred Dreyfus was delivered on 22 December 1894 and the years following saw a large exodus of French Jewry in one of the most virulent episodes of anti-Semitism in recent history—save for the Holocaust itself. Both France and Austria remain places of disproportionate anti-Semitism in Europe today, and I thought to broaden the Agincourt story based on large scale Jewish emigrations earlier in the century.
German migration of the 1920s and early 30s seemed too convenient (convenient for me; an act of survival for those who departed), so we used l’Affaire Dreyfus to bring French haberdasher and managing partner in the Blenheim Hotel Moise Cohen to Broad Street. It might just as easily have introduced M. Zilbermann to the mix.
Much has been written about Dreyfus and his story has even made it to the big screen. Perhaps not enough attention, however, if we’re unwilling to acknowledge the persistence of such intolerance in American culture today.