Dreyfus memory and family during WW2

I know Dreyfus died in 1935 and by that time his reputation was mostly rehabilitated. Did his image changed again under the Vichy goverment? What happend to his family during the war? Thank you for the hard work!


I wanted to know the same thing, especially because Dreyfus was accused of helping the Germans.


How do you want to scope this? The Dreyfus and Louis-Dreyfus clan is massive and historically married their cousins in the 18th century. The earliest common ancestor among the most famous members of the clan I can find on family trees on Geni is from the 1500s, but I think there is someone later-born roughly 1690. I need to check their documentation as well as what was up with differences in naming conventions.

Most, but not all, of the male clan members pre-20th century, were in trade and manufacturing (though there are some mohels, some kosher butchers, a rabbi). They also, like most Ashkenazim, have a ton of name repetition in their family trees (Ashekanzim like to name after dead relatives). Pre ww1 they spoke Yiddish and German among themselves. Most of the clan circa world war 2 was middle.upper-middle class prosperous to crazy wealthy - and crazy wealthy is helpful in this case because it means the property in the parts of the clan is REALLY well documented under Vichy

We know that some of Alfred Dreyfus’s direct descendants survived because there’s a popular french actress, Julie Dreyfus, who’s a direct descendant. (She was cast in inglorious basterds, for those who care.) Since she’s born in 66, I guess she’s his great-great grandkid? Alfred Dreyfus’s widow spent the war hiding in a convent… https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/240699/dreyfus-dreyfus-dreyfuss

If we want to knowhow generically any Jewish person from Alsace with the last name of Dreyfus (aka members of the greater clan) would have been seen and treated by Vichy, possibly a better way to think about the problem would be to trace the history of the Louis-Dreyfus sub-clan members and more specifically, the Louis Dreyfus Group.

The Louis Dreyfus group made the Louis-Dreyfus subclan INCREDIBLY wealthy. One of the recent patriarchs in the clan, Gérard C. Louis-Dreyfus, died in 2016. He was worth over 3 billion dollars at the time of his death because the Louis Dreyfus Group “makes up about 10% of the world’s agricultural product trade flows, and it is the world’s largest cotton and rice trader.” They also are or have been involved in mining, weapons production, real estate, and energy. It is mostly privately held by Louis-Dreyfuses, who are descendants of a Dreyfus who gave himself a second name to distinguish himself from other wealthy trading cousins.

The Loius Dreyfus Group was established in 1851, initially in the wheat trade. By the time World War 2 broke out, the Loius Dreyfus Group was already one of the largest conglomerates in France and their members were among the wealthiest in France. They owned lots of land and commodities worldwide, including in the US (because you know, the Great Plains). The French assets and main holding company in France were seized by Vichy because it was a Jewish owned company according to their corporate history. Some family members, as a result, fled to the US or Argentina, but not all of them did. This was helped by the fact that there were already Dreyfuses who had immigrated to the US for various reasons (probably financial, a LOT of the extend Dreyfus clan was in various aspects of trade and the US was a major market- at least one of Alfred Dreyfus’s distant cousins, Jack Dreyfus, founder of the Dreyfus Corporation, a subsidiary brokerage of BNY-Mellon,
had been born in Alabama! by this time. So there are definitely clan members in the US). At least one Louis-Dreyfus, Pierre, became a famous French resistance fighter/Free French airplane gunner. The family after the war got the company back and built it back up, but it seems that they developed a strong cross Atlantic focus. Poking around, it appears most of the Louis-Dreyfus subclan does finance or something related, except Julia Louis Dreyfus, of Seinfeld and Veep. One got involved in a scandal involving FIFA.

It also appears the clan overall didn’t go back to Alsace, althought that was starting to change before the war. They primarily settled in more metropolitan cities.

As to other questions about personal behavior and Vichy.

Vichy wholesale imported the Nuremberg laws and policies. Being a Dreyfus would not have prevented Vichy from forcing clan members from wearing a Jewish star. More important was the French reaction to Vichy.

I think it’s highly unlikely that the clan had members who died. Vichy purposely started deportations and roundups with “Foreign Jews,”, which gave the French population a heads up about what was going to happen with the native Jewish population. The majority of the French population did not like Drancy, and they did not like the idea of the foreign Jewish people being shipped off to die. They saw their Jewish population as French. It was considered an act of resistance to Vichy to stop this from happening to the native Jewish population. Of the 340,000 Jews living in metropolitan/continental France in 1940, more than 75,000 were deported to death camps, where about 72,500 were killed. That’s 75% of the Jewish population of France. France has among the highest population number awards of “Righteous among the Gentiles” from Yad Vashem. (though to be fair, Vichy was also French, they were the ones doing the rounding up to Drancy and from Drancy putting Jewish people on trains to Auschwitz, they just weren’t the majority)

Finally, one last Dreyfus. Hannah Dreyfus, whose name keeps coming up in Jewish reporting circles right now. There are non-Alsace Jewish Dreyfuses (for example, ones from Switzerland, ones from Germany) I do not know if she is one of the Alsace Clan. It is possible though.

So that’s what happened to the clan. Most currently do not live in Alsace. They’re doing their thing. Some are CRAZY wealthy. Some act. There are probably some quiet ones doing something else. Some aren’t so actively Jewish anymore.


Some more on Dreyfus during Vichy

I found this paper https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=uhf_2018

some great lines

Vichy press used it to justify genocidal actions against the Jews

Vichy officials encouraged local governments to rename streets named for Alfred Dreyfus and Dreyfusard figures

On Maurras and Action Française, who was heavily involved in Vichy

During the Dreyfus Affair, Maurras ultimately failed to create the French society for which he and the anti-Dreyfusards campaigned: a society free of Jews and French Republican democratic values.

On their paper:

Between 1940 and 1944, the Action Française editors published articles directly referencing the “Affaire Dreyfus,” written as such, at least 164 times. All of these articles questioned Dreyfus’s innocence, specifically, and the political legitimacy of the Third Republic, more broadly.

On Edouard Drumont, a core figure in the Dreyfus Affair

Again, in 1944, for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edouard Drumont, journalists and members of the French Milice, the French version of the Nazi S.S., honored Drumont at his grave.

On stealing from the Dreyfus family

Pierre Dreyfus, the son of Alfred Dreyfus, appears on the list of Frenchmen whose property the “Germans” stole. According to Coignard’s list, Pierre lost a collection of books on the Dreyfus Affair, many of which his father had signed and annotated

On textbooks:

[as of September 1940, students] They no longer studied from the existing Malet-Isaac history textbook, edited by a leading French Jewish historian and Dreyfusard. The Vichy Ministry of Education declared this textbook “Jewish” and accordingly banned it from French classrooms. Instead of the Malet-Isaac, the Ministry commissioned the creation of new textbooks that detailed a version of French history acceptable to the new Vichy regime.

The textbooks (over time, and definitely by 1942)

Yet, there is a virtual absence of the Dreyfus Affair in the Vichy Ministry of Education’s commissioned textbook

Why the deletion

They did so as a means to unify the bulk of the French people after defeat


While the Vichy Ministry of National Education officially banned textbooks written by Jews or displaying anti-German sentiment, in practice teachers and students occasionally did continue to use them

And finally, In a chart about core figures

Four of Alfred Dreyfus’s grandchildren, two great-nieces, and one great-nephew fought in the French Resistance. His granddaughter Madeleine [Levy] was caught and sent to Auschwitz where she died. Pierre, Alfred Dreyfus’s son fled with his family to New York in 1942.

A little more on his immediate family and grandchildren. All of his descendants live in France, according to this article (which also has a totally adorable picture of him with his wife at 75, just hanging out) J'adore: Great-granddaughter Reveals the Alfred Dreyfus You Never Knew - Jewish World - Haaretz.com

Finally, the paper opens with a picture of the Dreyfus-Levy-Baur tomb[?] (with the oldest member in it being Alfred Dreyfus). There are stones and pebbles placed on the tombstone, instead of flowers. That’s a Jewish custom, quite normal, and NOT a desecration of the gravesite. The headstone mentions Madeline, but she isn’t buried there. Sadly, unlike other Jewish headstones, we don’t get to see the hebrew names[1]. The only two hebrew charachters is on the very first line: a pay and a tet on the top - it stands for the phrase ‘Po Tamun’ which means ‘Here is Hidden’.

[?] I’m confused how the plot works. Jewish burials are very plain
[1] He didn’t have one, Alfred Dreyfus’s ketubah apparently was in a museum exhibit - and you can see it here הכתובה של אלפרד דרייפוס, 1890 In the space where it is supposed to list his name, it literally says “Alfred Dreyfus” spelled in hebrew and forgets his father’s name, per custom. Though I guess, yay for having a ketubah and cool he got married by the then chief rabbi of france?
Some other cool things: see his wedding invitation: https://www.nli-education-uk.org/dreyfus-wedding


The Dreyfus affair that you seem to be asking about happened in France in 1894. Alfred Dreyfus was a French Jewish Army officer who was accused and convicted of being a traitor to France by giving the Germans French military secrets. A crushed letter with French military secrets was found in a trash can and thought to be in his handwriting . Later it would be shown that this handwriting belonged to a different French Army Officer. This was hushed up by the Army until many years later when the truth finally came out.