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The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England?

A. L. Shane

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England?* A. L. SHANE The Dreyfus Affair is the term used to describe the mass hysteria which arose in France at the end of the nineteenth century as the result of the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus on charges of treasonable activities with the Germans, an hysteria which in turn gave rise to a wave of nationalism and anti-Semitism. One leading authority on the subject, Nicolas Halasz, entitled his book Captain Dreyfus. The Story of Mass Hysteria, a choice of title supported by the comment of one observer of the Rennes trial in 1899, G. W. Steevans, who in his book The Tragedy of Dreyfus, published the same year, wrote: 'Frenchmen are hypnotised by the case of Dreyfus, as some people are hypnotised by religion; in its presence they lose all mental power and moral sense.' This paper will examine the reasons for the hysteria and show that a similar outbreak could have occurred in England. Indeed during the period of the Dreyfus Affair, roughly 1894 to 1906, a large and influential section of Anglo-Jewry thought not only that it could happen but that it actually was going to happen and took steps which it was hoped would prevent it. They were not concerned with logical considerations. It was sufficient that it had happened in France. In their reactions Anglo-Jewry displayed much of the hysteria witnessed in France, and experienced a similar wave of nationalism and anti-Semitism. It is difficult to realize today the impact which the Dreyfus Affair had at the time, not only on the French and world Jewry, but also on world opinion generally. Hundreds of journalists attended the trial at Rennes in 1899 and their daily reports of the progress of the trial were transmitted to their respective journals by the newly invented wireless telegraphy. The English magazine The Review of Reviews devoted the whole of its issue of 15 September 1899 to the trial, publishing an article by its editor W. T. Stead entitled 'The Story of Alfred Dreyfus told from beginning to end'. The opening paragraphs read: If the constant repetition of one's name in the papers is to be famous, then Captain Dreyfus is the most famous man who ever lived. Never since journalism began has any single man figured so conspicuously and so * Presidential Paper presented to the Society on 28 April 1988. 135</page><page sequence="2">A. L. Shane continuously in the newspapers of the world as this artillery officer of thirty-nine. Fame has been thrust upon him without his seeking it. He has become famous not by what he has done, but by what he has suffered. Nay, it is not even his sufferings which have fascinated the attention of mankind. The strange secret which has compelled the newspapers of Europe and America to expend hundreds of thousands of pounds in reporting the proceedings before the Court Martial at Rennes is not the attraction of torture?however great that may be. Why is it that Dreyfus has become the human unit whose fortunes interest all mankind? It is not his personality. When I began this Character Sketch, I thought of confining myself solely to an attempt to delineate the character of the man. But that, I speedily found, would have interested nobody. For the man himself is very much as other men. Stead concluded that 'The Affaire Dreyfus is a Judgement Day come to France before its time... Up and down and throughout the whole French nation, from the highest to the lowest, this Affaire Dreyfus has passed like a magic mirror, in which all men may see reflected the inner soul of modern France... Dreyfus fades into infinite insignificance compared with the immensity of the issues which were raised at his trial.' It affected foreign relations. It produced a confrontation between England and France in the Fashoda Affair, when England and France seemed on the point of going to war over the control of the Upper Waters of the Nile and Egypt. Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, calculated rightly that France was internally so divided over the Dreyfus Affair that he could with impunity seize control of the Upper Waters of the Nile. He proceeded to do so, although the French Forces were in occupation there; and nothing happened. The French generals were too busy fighting Drey fusism. It affected monarchs. Queen Victoria was particularly interested, and at the time of the retrial in Rennes in 1899 personally asked the British Ambassador in Paris to attend the proceedings and report to her; she expressed her dismay and horror at the result, which again found Dreyfus guilty, but with extenuating circumstances. The German emperor was said to have known of Dreyfus' activities as a spy, to have read his reports to the German Foreign Office, and to have been in correspondence with Dreyfus. As Kaiser Wilhelm II was Queen Victoria's grandson, she wrote asking him if it was true that Dreyfus was a German spy. He replied that he was not. The Italian government was also involved. Its military attache in Paris was accused of engaging in espionage and of illegally obtaining French military secrets through Dreyfus. The Russian government thought it desirable to join in the protests against Dreyfus' conviction. The prime minister issued a statement asserting his belief in 136</page><page sequence="3">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England? Dreyfus' innocence, but added that this did not affect his attitude to the Jews of Russia. Prince Rainier of Monaco was so interested in the Affair that he came to Paris and had a meeting with Meline, the French prime minister. No communique was issued after the meeting, but Meline died of a heart attack the next day and it was widely believed that he had been poisoned by the Prince. The Dreyfus Affair, it appears, had little or nothing to do with Alfred Dreyfus himself, for he disappeared from the scene very early. When most of the action was taking place he-was imprisoned on Devil's Island, unaware of the efforts being made to obtain his release and of the wider issues which grew out of his wrongful conviction. When he came back in 1899, he refused to have anything whatsoever to do with what had become known as 'Dreyfusism'. His sole objective was to clear his name and have himself reinstated in military circles. Leon Blum, a contemporary of Dreyfus, who went on to become prime minister of France, likened Dreyfus' part in the Affair to that of a ship on the ocean. Good ship Dreyfus reached harbour safely after a stormy voyage, while the waves of public opinion created by its motion eventually circumscribed the world. This was certainly true at the time of the verdict at the Rennes trial in 1899 which found Dreyfus guilty but with extenuating circumstances. The Standard newspaper on 16 September 1899 reported that great indignation was expressed at the verdict at a public meeting in Melbourne, that 'the movement [for a reprieve] was spreading throughout Australia', and that further meetings were planned. The Affair started in 1895 as the Dreyfus Case, when Dreyfus was convicted of spying for the Germans, a conviction which was secured only by the secret introduction to the military judges of the court martial of a dossier of papers falsely attributed to Dreyfus. This was done on the express instructions of General Mercier, the French minister of war, to save his own reputation. General Mercier had authorized the court martial without obtaining govern? ment approval and was apprehensive that his military and political career would be adversely affected if Dreyfus were acquitted. Faced with the alternative of saving Dreyfus' reputation or his own, General Mercier chose the latter course. Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment in a fortified place and to degradation as an officer. The degradation was carried out in a humiliating public ceremony with the crowd shouting 'death to the traitor!' and 'death to the Jew!' This ceremony had an important side effect, in that it was seen by Theodor Herzl, who had gone to Paris as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper and had witnessed the trial. He was deeply affected by it, and reasoned that if this could happen in France, a nation that was founded upon the principles of 'Liberty, 137</page><page sequence="4">A. L Shane Equality and Fraternity', then there was no country where the Jews were safe. He resolved that they should have a State of their own. On his conviction, Dreyfus was transported to Devil's Island, off the coast of South America, where he spent five years before being released and pardoned. Dreyfus' conviction created a dilemma which divided the Jewish community of Paris. On the one hand, people knew the Dreyfus family to be loyal citizens who had demonstrated their loyalty to France when living in Alsace Lorraine by opting for French rather than German nationality and moving to Paris. On the other hand, Dreyfus had been convicted of treason and the Jewish community felt that to assert publicly their belief in his innocence would be seen as associating with a convicted traitor and would leave their own loyalty as a community open to challenge. They accordingly distanced themselves from Dreyfus, and left it to his family to deal with the situation. Moreover, they had faith in the French judicial system and felt that it could be relied on to rectify its mistake. When the movement for the review of Dreyfus' conviction grew, the Jewish community blamed the revisionists for stirring up even fiercer anti-Jewish feelings than had the original trial. The community's passive attitude was noted at the time by Leon Blum who accused it of cowardice. The struggle to establish the innocence of Dreyfus and have the verdict of the court martial reviewed and set aside was thus conducted by Dreyfus' brother, Mathieu, and Dreyfus' devoted wife, Lucy, assisted by a handful of intellectuals, such as Bernard Lazare, Emile Zola, and Clemenceau, the politician Scheurer-Kestner, and the soldier Colonel Picquart, who risked his career and reputation by publicly asserting the innocence of Dreyfus. Picquart was one of the first to discover that the real traitor, and author of the infamous memorandum or bordereau which Dreyfus had been accused of sending to the German military attache in Paris, was in fact a profligate soldier of fortune named Esterhazy who habitually sold French military information to the Germans and Italians. As to the French nation itself, the Dreyfus Affair split it into two hostile and vociferous camps who roundly abused each other by every means available. The press was so actively involved in debating the issues raised by the Dreyfus trial that at one stage it was asserted that the Affair was being kept alive solely by the press for its own purposes. The Dreyfus Affair heralded a new phase in mass communication. It was the first occasion when a national issue was debated through the national and international press. The first occasion when a news item was publicized on screen in cinemas was in 1899 by the newly established Pathe Gazette newsreels, covering the Dreyfus Affair. It was through the writings of intellectuals that the issue was raised of whether justice should prevail over national security or vice versa. The proponents of the first view, who became known as 'Dreyfusards', were 138</page><page sequence="5">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England? composed of members of his family, intellectuals and a few politicians, while the rest, known as the 'anti-Dreyfusards', comprised in the main the army and the Church (both Jesuit controlled), members of the remaining French nobility and the vast bourgeoisie. The anti-Dreyfusards claimed they were protecting the prestige of the army and its generals for reasons of national security. When Esterhazy refused at Zola's trial in 1898 to answer questions relating to his connection with the German military attache, the Judge protected him: 'There is something more important than a Court of Justice?the honour and security of the Country', he exclaimed. Clemenceau rejected this argument, denouncing it in forthright terms: 'Reasons of state, have they any force against the law? Today it hits Dreyfus, tomorrow it hits others... Reasons of state once introduced cannot again be discarded. They provide the answer to everything.' It was Esterhazy's acquittal in 1899, in a mock trial instigated by the French government to appease public opinion, that provoked Emile Zola to publish his famous article, 'J'accuse!' In this he accused the French generals and government, on the one hand of covering up Dreyfus' innocence, and on the other hand of concealing the fact that the real traitor, and author of the list or bordereau which Dreyfus had been wrongly accused of passing to the Germans, was Esterhazy. This article caused a sensation. Many hundreds of copies were printed to meet public demand, and with its publication the Dreyfus Affair can really be said to have begun and become an international issue. Dreyfus was released from Devil's Island in 1899. On landing in France he was met by a crowd of reporters, and was asked by one to what he attributed his conviction and harsh treatment. Dreyfus' answer shows no sign of rancour or hatred. 'First I was suspected', he replied. 'I do not know how they could have reached such a serious conclusion so lightly?Then I was a Jew?I was disliked?I suppose this was due to my conduct?I kept to myself?I adopted a superior attitude to my superiors and was always criticizing their work, although to my juniors I was of course always considerate_' When it was all over, the French people rubbed their eyes in amazement. 'Was this all the Affair had been about?' they asked themselves. About a list enclosing documents which were never found and which never reached the Germans; documents which to an unprejudiced reader were not secret and were of little value to an enemy. They realized they had indeed been gripped by mass hysteria. The events in France had not gone unnoticed in England, and the question 'Could it happen in England?' was being constantly raised. As early as 28 December 1894, in an editorial note immediately after Dreyfus' first conviction, the Jewish Chronicle asserted its firm belief in the innocence of Dreyfus: The decision of the French Court Martial in the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus 139</page><page sequence="6">A. L. Shane has not carried in the minds of a very large and influential section of the public outside France. For our part, we decline emphatically to believe that any Jewish officer can have been guilty of the treasonable practice imputed to Captain Dreyfus, and we shall cling to this belief until it is made quite clear to us that the evidence against him was in itself conclusive and that its genuineness was properly tested. Let it not be imagined for a moment that we are throwing any doubt on the good faith of the officers comprising the Court Martial... But the fact remains that they are men without judicial competence and that they approach the trial with the Minister of War shouting at them that their prisoner was guilty and with a large volume of prejudiced public opinion clamoring for a conviction... They are, at any rate, sufficient to confirm us in our instinctive inability to believe that a coreligionist could be guilty of so black an act of treachery as that which has been charged against Captain Dreyfus. This editorial note can be said to reflect the attitude of Anglo-Jewry, which was one of disbelief and of trust that all would come right in the end. This optimistic view proved unfounded, and on 15 September 1899 the Jewish Chronicle captioned its main editorial 'Dreyfus Condemned', and expressed the 'grief and indignation which we share with all that is best in the Gentile world' at 'the second condemnation of Captain Dreyfus. There were some?ourselves among them?who were loath to believe in this crowning infamy... We were mistaken... Facts are nothing; justice is nothing; truth is nothing; hatred of the Jew and army idolatry is everything.' And it concluded that 'France has presented to the world an object lesson in the methods and effects of anti-Semitism, and in the national disasters that dog its footsteps'. The Chief Rabbi, Dr Adler, also saw the events in France as a warning to Anglo-Jewry. On 22 September 1899, the Day of Atonement, he devoted his sermon at the Great Synagogue, London, to the plight 'of our brother, Alfred Dreyfus, who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and iron, though he have done no violence.' Dreyfus had a few days earlier been found guilty of treason, but with extenuating circumstances. The Chief Rabbi took as the text of his sermon the biblical book of Daniel and compared France to Babylon. France, he said, had been judged by world opinion; weighed and found wanting. He continued that the message applied to nations as to individuals, and that 'what is morally wrong cannot be politically right'. Adler concluded: 'We must regard the events passing on the other side of the Channel as a handwriting on the wall warning us that a fierce light is beaten upon us and that it behoves us to be more cautious and circumspect than ever before'. The fact that the Chief Rabbi devoted his sermon on the most important day of the Jewish year to the fate of Dreyfus in France, demonstrates the strength of the fear that a similar attack of anti-Semitism could arise in England. Interest in the Affair in England was not confined to Jewish circles. It was extensively covered not only in the national press but also in such sectarian journals as the Catholic Times and the Methodist Times. Of the national press, The 140</page><page sequence="7">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England? Times in particular fully reported the Affair. Its originally anti-Dreyfus stance changed as the Affair progressed. In a long review of the proceedings at Rennes when Dreyfus was re-convicted (with extenuating circumstances), it wrote that the judgement of 13 October 1899 was a scandal which had 'attained a magnitude which compelled attention and interest of other nations and which lifted it out of the category of mainly domestic affairs'. It concluded that 'it is avowedly a case that supports the contention of those who maintain that Dreyfus never had a fair or legal trial and that upon the original illegality of his condemnation has been piled a mountain of allegations yet more gross and culpable'. The Dreyfus Affair was a source of anxiety also to the Catholic community, for whom it created a dilemma. On the one hand they could not but feel sympathy for the sufferings of Dreyfus, but on the other hand they were loath to criticize their coreligionists in France. Articles in the Roman Catholic press were noted, in turn, by the Methodist press, which expressed doubt about the loyalty of English Catholics, in view of their submission to the Pope in Rome. It is significant that in 1899, at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, both the Jewish Chronicle and Adler were apprehensive that a similar situation not only could, but would, arise in England unless Jews became, as Adler put it, 'more cautious and circumspect than ever before'. Anglo-Jewry now began to examine its position and to take steps. In addition to being careful in their behaviour, and demonstrating their patriotism, they tried to stem the inflow of Jewish immigrants who, it was felt, because of their strange habits and lack of English, would bring the established community into disrepute. This departed from the traditional attitude of Anglo-Jewish leaders, who had been accustomed to providing assistance for refugees from the Continent. The change came at a particularly awkward time, in view of the large influx of refugees from Poland and Russia. The atmosphere produced a series of articles which appeared in the Young Israel journal in 1898, entitled 'Are Jews unpopular. If so why?'. Its answer was that it was the behaviour of the Jews themselves which made them unpopular, a view typically expressed by the author and historian H.G. Wells, among others. While some Anglo-Jewish leaders thought that by keeping a low profile they would avoid the troubles afflicting French Jews, others were not convinced. Theodor Herzl, who had witnessed the degradation of Dreyfus, warned English Jews to be watchful. Writing in Young Israel in 1895 he said that Lord Salisbury's Alien Bill, which was then being debated in Parliament, was 'a weather sign'; 'if English Jews do not soon take the trouble to understand Zionism and further the movement, they will be hunted out of genteel society as in France. They will be attacked in the Press, as in France, by an anti-semitic party in Parliament, as in France.' 141</page><page sequence="8">A. L. Shane Israel Zangwill, another Zionist, was even more explicit. In a speech reported in the Jewish Chronicle on 22 May 1903, he exclaimed 'The Jews cried "I too am a Frenchman!" but in France we hear "Down with the Jews!" Even England and America are beginning to cry "You are not a brother, you are a bother!".' Zangwill was anticipating H.G. Wells, who in his book, In Search of Hot Water, first published in November 1939, but referring to conditions in England in World War I, expressed a view no doubt held by many others when he wrote advising Jews to see themselves as a distinct minority group without any country of their own, and sympathized with their dilemma. He wrote: I can imagine no more dreadful position in the world today than to be an intelligent Jew, with a clear sense of reality. However great his gifts, he is going to be more or less frustrated, he is going to be a marked man. It is no good his claiming to be a citizen of the world. The Bible-trained Gentile world will not have it. It will say 'No, you are a Jew'. And the Bible-trained Jewish world will not have it. It will say 'Remember you are a Jew. Stick to your own people'.Never has this dilemma had such long and sharp horns as it has today... until it is possible for the Jew to cease being distinctively a Jew and become a Cosmopolitan without shame or falsehood, this miserable and tragic discord will enfeeble the intellectual processes of mankind and spoil the lives of innumerable people. The Dreyfus Affair did not escape Chesterton's attention. He expressed his views in one of his 'Father Brown' stories, the hero of which was a Catholic priest who, as he went about his duties in London, observed curious incidents and mysteries which he solved by simple, logical deductions which would have won praise from his more famous colleague Sherlock Holmes. Father Brown had a Jewish friend named Dubois, who one day interrupts him. 'Is not the case you are referring to that of Dreyfus?' he asks. 'Yes,' replied Father Brown. 'Dreyfus was wronged but he was a wrong-un!' The comment reflected a commonly held view that Dreyfus might have been wrongly convicted on this occasion, but that he was nevertheless a German spy. Wells was also critical of the loyalty of British Jews, implying that with the advent of Zionism they were no longer interested in the welfare of England, and were transferring their loyalty to Palestine. In his book of 1939 he wrote: When the war came in 1914 some of us were trying to impose upon it the idea that it was a War to End War, that if we could make ourselves heard sufficiently we might emerge from that convulsion with some sort of World Pax, a clean-up of the old order, and a fresh start for the economic life of mankind as a whole... But throughout those tragic and almost fruitless four years of war, Zangwill and the Jewish spokesmen were most elaborately and energetically demonstrating that they cared not a rap for the troubles and dangers of English, French, Germans, Russians, Americans or any other people 142</page><page sequence="9">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England? but their own. They kept their eyes steadfastly upon the restoration of the Jews?and what was worse in the long run, they kept the Gentiles acutely aware of this... The Zionist movement was a resounding advertisement to all the world of the inassimilable spirit of the more audible Jews. In England, where there has been no social, political or economic discrimination against the Jews for several generations, there is a growing irritation at the killing and wounding of British soldiers and Arabs in pitched battles fought because of this Zionist idea. The Labour Party leader, Attlee, when prime minister in the late 1940s, was outraged by the actions of Irgun. They are killing British Tommies,' he complained in Parliament. His foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, was outspokenly pro-Ar ab and did his utmost to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel. Trevor Royle also, in his book The Best Years of Their Lives, written in 1945, was to refer to the armed struggle of Jews to establish the State of Israel in the 1940s. He highlighted the odium in which English Jews found themselves. Describing the conditions of the war in Palestine, he wrote: 'The young conscripts in Palestine had ample cause to be frightened. The Irgun was a brutal enemy which used ruthless tactics to achieve its aims... A National Service Officer wrote: "This was the course of a brilliant comet snuffed out by some underhanded Jew. Never let anyone talk to me of sympathy to the Jews. I have never felt more like murder in my life."' Joseph Cowen, another Zionist leader, wrote in the same vein as Wells in February 1898 as mobs destroyed Jewish property in France. 'Ten years ago the French Jew was as proud of being French as the English Jew of being English and now see what has happened. I don't want to appeal to the fears of Anglo-Jewry but who knows what will happen in ten years hence. At least Zionism gives English Jews something to work for.' Many English Zionists shared a fear with some non-Zionists that what had happened to French Jews as a result of the Dreyfus Affair could happen in England. Other Jews disagreed with this view, and thought the answer lay in assimilation within the larger community. In particular all saw the need to demonstrate that they were good patriots and loyal citizens of England since both Dreyfus and the Jews of France had been accused of lacking these qualities. Indeed, the need became urgent during the Boer War, as national feelings ran high and the outcome seemed uncertain. Jews, it was alleged, were not joining the army, and because of their international affiliations would never become loyal patriots, regardless of the country that gave them shelter. Service in the armed forces was thus seen as the true test of loyalty, and Jewish communal leaders, both lay and clerical, began to urge Jewish youth to enlist. The outbreak of the Boer War was seen as a golden opportunity for the community to display its patriotism and at the same time to refute the allegations of anti-Semites in England. Some communal leaders thought these people were 143</page><page sequence="10">A. L. Shane over-reacting, and accused them of what Dr Gaster described in 1899 as 'hysterical patriotism' which he labelled 'karkitis'. Leopold J. Greenberg in the Jewish Chronicle agreed with Gaster. In June 1900, in Young Israel, he wrote: 'all this terrible anxiety to prove our loyalty serves only to call attention to our racial exclusivensss and our social detachment which remain, our shouting Rule Britannia notwithstanding, and will remain as long as we are Jews. We imagine that our desperate efforts to prove that though Jews we are Englishmen pleases those amongst whom we live. But there can be no greater error, as recent events in France, in Germany and in Austria so amply go to prove.' Dr Gaster continued to think that what had happened in France could happen in England. Speaking later in 1905, he said he had repeatedly warned English Jews of what would happen if they failed to heed the warning signals in France. French Jews, he said, had believed 'that because they had forgotten they were Jews, so had their neighbours'. The result of this attitude, said Gaster, was that 'they had the shame of witnessing the Dreyfus trials and all their consequences'. And he added that he was sorry 'to have been such a good prophet in warning that the same thing would happen in England'. Subsequent events proved him indeed to have been a good prophet. During the nineteenth century, England had been so free from the virulent types of anti-Semitism witnessed on the Continent that the Liberal leader William Gladstone could assert that in Great Britain, anti-Jewish activities were as improbable as a demonstration against the law of gravity. Had Gladstone been alive in the early years of the twentieth century, he might have thought differently. For between 1900 and the outbreak of war in 1914 there were in England a number of financial scandals involving prominent Jews, which brought discredit to the Anglo-Jewish community and provided ammunition for English anti-Semites. The Marconi Affair of 1912 is a typical example. The Marconi Company, a pioneer of radio-telephony, had been promoted as a public company, and went bankrupt. Hundreds of people lost their money. Just as in France, when the Panama Canal scandal involved the loss of the savings of hundreds of small French investors, the Jews were blamed for the disaster. The English press did the same by subtly pointing out that the company was controlled by Jews. Its directors included Herbert Samuel (later Lord Samuel and High Commissioner for Palestine) and Morris Isaacs, a brother of Rufus Isaacs (later Lord Reading and Viceroy of India). Rufus Isaacs was attorney general at the time of the scandal (which involved the misuse of information about government con? tracts), investigated the affair despite personal involvement, and whitewashed those concerned. This abuse of authority provoked Rudyard Kipling to write his famous poem Gehazi, attacking Rufus Isaacs' conduct. G.K. Chesterton, a Catholic and an avowed anti-Semite, declared that the Marconi Affair was a watershed in British history, comparable to World War I. 144</page><page sequence="11">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England? Writing in October 1917, he said: T would like to add a few words to the Jews... If they continue to indulge in stupid talk about pacifism, exciting people against the soldiers and their wives and widows, they will learn for the first time what the word "anti-semitism" really means. In short, we will tolerate their errors, but we will not allow them to educate London the way they educated Petrograd, they will awaken something that will stun them and terrorize them infinitely more than a mere war.' In addition, the growth of chains of retail shops which resulted in putting small shopkeepers out of business caused resentment. This was noted by H.G. Wells. In a little-known work entitled The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman, first published in 1914, Wells directed his criticism to Jewish businessmen and their methods. He described the build-up by a Jew, Sir Isaac Harman, of a chain ?f stores carrying the name 'International' to boost their prestige, though there was nothing international about their activities. He gives the following pen picture of Sir Isaac as seen by his Gentile wife, Lady Harman: Sir Isaac was one of those men whom modern England delights to honour, a man of unpretentious acquisitiveness, devoted to business and distracted by no aesthetic or intellectual interests. He was the only son... of a bankrupt steam-miller... He left Mr Gambard's college... at the age of sixteen, to go into a tea-office as a clerk... He contrived to save a considerable proportion of his salary for some years, and at the age of twenty-seven he started, in association with a firm of flour millers, the International Bread and Cake Stores, which spread rapidly over the country. They were not in any sense of the word 'international' but in the search for inflated and inflating adjectives this word attracted him most, and the success of the enterprise justified his choice. Originally conceived as a syndicated system of baker's shops running a specially gritty and nutritious line of bread, the Stamina Bread, in addition to the ordinary descriptions, it rapidly developed a catering side, and in a little time there were few centres of clerkly employment in London or the Midlands where an International could not be found supplying the midday scone or poached egg, washed down by a cup of tea, or coffee, or lemonade. Lady Harman was critical of the business methods by which Sir Isaac's success was obtained and of its consequences to his less organized competitors. As she put it: But there can be no mistaking the quality of Sir Isaac's 'international' organization... It was indeed what we all of us see everywhere about us, the work of the base energetic mind, raw and untrained, in possession of the keen instruments of civilization, the peasant mind allied and blended to the Ghetto mind, grasping and acquisitive, clever as a Norman peasant or a Jew Pedlar is clever, and beyond that outrageously stupid and ugly... the business machine that had led to the disaster of Sir Isaac's unorganized competitors going to the wall... the success of the business machine that had replaced those shattered 145</page><page sequence="12">A. L. Shane enterprises and carried Sir Isaac to the squalid glory of a Liberal honours list continued to expand. Sir Isaac's staff were, however, badly paid and treated, so much so that it was reported to Lady Harman that 'all the International waitresses have struck, and last night in Piccadilly they were standing on the kerb and picketing'. This picture of Sir Isaac and his business organization is so detailed and vivid that it could be taken, but only in general terms, to describe Joseph Lyons, the founder of the chain of tea shops and bakers that bear his name and whose first shop was in Piccadilly. It will be noted that Sir Isaac's unethical business methods were just the sort that the Chief Rabbi, Adler, had warned were likely to create anti-Semitism, and were the subject of criticism in the articles in Young Israel. It was during the First World War that anti-Semitism first became a major issue in England, and when the loyalty of English Jews began to be openly debated. The war created a serious dilemma for some of the new immigrants from Europe. Many had fled from vicious progroms in Russia and were now called upon to display their patriotism to England by joining the army and fighting with the Russians against the Germans for whom they were thought to have some sympathy. Understandably, Jewish young men were at first loath to join the forces, but they later fully participated. In fact, the proportion of Jews who served was (as Cecil Roth put it) 'slightly higher than lower than among the general population'. A large section of the English press was also anti-Jewish, although with typical obliqueness it preferred to refer to Jews as 'aliens' of doubtful loyalty. Prominent among these papers was The Times, which at this period was noticeably anti-Semitic, so much so that the Jewish Chronicle on 21 November 1919 felt obliged to comment 'The Times feels there is no better way to arouse indignation of the public against Bolshevism than by calling it Jewish'. Indeed, The Times went so far as to describe Bolshevism as 'the essence of Judaism'. This was too much for the Chief Rabbi, Dr Hertz, who, in a letter published in The Times of 29 February 1920, wrote that 'the attack is equal in intolerance to any I remember reading in the Continental press'. A few days later, the Jewish World commented that The Times' article 'marks the beginning of a new and evil era... We cannot say any more that there is no anti-semitism in this country that loved the Bible above everything'. It will also be recalled that it was The Times which was the first newspaper to announce the discovery of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' which it insinuated were genuine. Later, to its credit, it had the courage to admit its mistake and declare the document a deliberate forgery. Statements like these, amounting as they did to a virtual campaign against the Jews, were bound to have their effect on public opinion and gave rise to 146</page><page sequence="13">The Dreyfus Affair: could it have happened in England? numerous attacks on Jews and Jewish property throughout the country, similar to those which had earlier been witnessed in France. As might be expected, they were particularly vicious in the East End of London, where there was a large immigrant Jewish population. Outbreaks of violence against Jews were frequently reported. In July 1918 The Herald newspaper, under the heading 'Persecution of the Jews', wrote: 'Our attention has been called to the terrorism practised against the Jews and foreigners in some parts of East London. We are informed that all kinds of mean persecutions prevail, and that men with long beards are insulted in the streets by having their beards pulled, that shopkeepers are obliged to submit to what is nothing more or less than organised blackmail... This kind of thing is directly traceable to the free distribution of incitements, which the police allow to be circulated, and to the venomous attacks on foreigners in the yellow press.' The attacks on the Jews were not confined to the press, but extended to all forms of literature. Many books on the theme were published, notably by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, both Catholics. Belloc was particularly pessimistic as to what the future held for Jews in England. In his book The Jews, published in 1922, he prophesied that a bloody massacre would overtake them and that they should accept freely or by force a return to the Ghetto to avoid it. The campaign continued through to 1922, when the Spectator wrote, agreeing with Belloc, that 'the tide of anti-semitism was rising, and that the least provocation, or alleged provocation, could unleash an anti-semitic attack on the part of the British people'. The journal expressed the opinion that this was due to the racial exclusiveness of the Jews themselves. Belloc's prophecy proved correct, for the 1930s saw the rise of neo-fascism in Britain, modelled on the Nazi movement in Germany and provoked by the great depression ofthat period, which Hitler and others blamed on the Jews. Many British people thought that a parliamentary democracy was unable to cope with the situation and that the solution lay in the adoption of a fascist-style government. As a result, a number of neo-fascist parties came into existence, of which the British Union of Fascists, headed by Sir Oswald Mosley, was the most prominent. They were known as 'Black Shirts' from their preferred colour of uniform, and were organized on paramilitary lines. They organized marches and meetings, often in Jewish areas such as the East End. When these provoked counter-demonstrations, the police would intervene. After one serious confron? tation in 1936 the government reluctantly took action. The Public Order Act prohibited political uniforms and controlled political meetings. In the same period the Board of Deputies of British Jews, under the presidency of Neville Laski, formed a Defence Committee to counter anti-Semitic propa? ganda; it is still in existence. Belloc's views, however, did not go unchallenged, and in particular the Church of England felt obliged to intervene. This it did through Dean Inge, one 147</page><page sequence="14">A. L. Shane of its most famous theologians and publicists. Taking up the challenge of the two Roman Catholics, the Dean declared: 'We do not have a Jewish problem in England. We believe that every country has the Jews it deserves, and we, who have treated our Jewish compatriots decently, have earned and got the best Jews.' The Dean went on to explain the reasons for his attitude. 'We British accept a man for what he is worth, and we do not penalize him because he is an immigrant. In short, we have a Welsh prime minister, two Scottish archbishops, and a considerable number of Jews, Scots and Irish in prominent places. This way we receive better treatment.' It is probable that the views expressed by Dean Inge are more representative of the sentiments of the average Englishman than those of Chesterton and Belloc. However, it is necessary to add, as Chief Rabbi Adler had done, that 'a fierce light is beaten upon us, and that it behoves us to be more cautious and circumspect than ever before.' This is particularly the case in times of national stress, as during a war or economic depression, or social change such as was experienced in England in the aftermath of World War I, when reason can give way to hysteria like that witnessed in France in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair. It is in troubled times such as these that one could, indeed, have a Dreyfus-type affair in England. 148</page></plain_text>