PARIS, July 6 — One hundred years ago this month, Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish army officer who had spent five years on Devil's Island for high treason and an additional seven years trying to clear his name, was absolved by France's Supreme Court. A few days later he was reinstated in the army, promoted to squadron chief, or major, and given the Légion d'Honneur.
The Dreyfus Affair, which deeply divided France and called forth a vicious wave of anti-Semitism, was finally over. Or was it?
In practice, many anti-Dreyfusards — nationalists, army officers, fervent Catholics and assorted bigots — refused to accept Dreyfus's innocence. The Catholic daily La Croix lamented "the traitor's reintegration into the army."
Dreyfus left the army in 1907, rejoined it during World War I, then led a fairly uneventful life until his death in 1935. Yet only five years later, during the German occupation of France, anti-Semitism became official policy as the collaborationist Vichy government helped to deport 76,000 Jews, including Dreyfus's granddaughter, to Nazi death camps.
Now, on the centenary of Dreyfus's acquittal, the affair is again being remembered here.
Fifteen related books have been published or reissued. The Supreme Court has held a daylong seminar celebrating its decision of July 12, 1906, to overrule a military court's scandalous 1899 guilty verdict. And the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Paris is presenting a show, "Alfred Dreyfus: The Fight for Justice."
Yet while this anniversary once again underlines the lessons of history, it is also disturbingly topical: in the view of many French Jews, anti-Semitism is again on the rise here.
This time it is not a resurgence of the hatred that has long scarred European history. It is not that of the Middle Ages, the Dreyfus Affair, World War II or even the cynical minimizing of the Holocaust by the extreme rightist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 1980's. Rather, a new form of anti-Semitism is now alarming France's 600,000 Jews.
By all accounts, children of Arab immigrants in France increasingly view Jews as their enemy. That anti- Semitism has its roots in hostility toward Israel dating from 1948, but it has been aggravated by the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and even post-9/11 tensions between the West and Islam.
At the same time, some unemployed youths of Arab and African extraction have made Jews the scapegoats for their anger at French society.
Attacks on and threats to Jews and Jewish property have been on the rise since 2000, but the most shocking incident was the kidnapping and murder of a 23-year-old French Jew, Ilan Halimi, in February. In what appeared to be the transfer of ancient prejudices to a new social group, the leader of the kidnapping gang said Mr. Halimi had been chosen because Jews are wealthy.
In a sense, then, today's Dreyfus Affair is the Halimi case, and both illustrate how easily a civilized society can slide into uncivilized behavior.
In 1894, when Dreyfus was accused of spying for Germany, France was still nursing the wounds of its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. It was also alarmed by a newly united Germany's growing might. Discovery of a letter indicating that French military secrets were being leaked to Germany set off a wave of paranoia and hysteria.
Dreyfus, the only Jew in the army high command, was almost immediately held responsible, although the evidence was flimsy and some army officers were later proved to have perjured themselves in testifying against him.
A court-martial sentenced him to imprisonment on Devil's Island, off French Guiana. Before leaving, he was stripped of his rank — his sword was symbolically broken — in a ceremony in the École Militaire. "Death to Jews" became a common cry.
Dreyfus always insisted on his innocence, and support for him grew among intellectuals, most famously Émile Zola, who published an open letter to President Félix Faure in 1898 under the headline "J'Accuse," denouncing "the abominable Dreyfus Affair." For that, Zola was sentenced to a year in prison for libeling the army; instead, he went into exile in Britain.
New evidence was found incriminating another officer, but he was acquitted by a court-martial. Dreyfus was nonetheless allowed to return to France in 1899 to present his case to the Supreme Court. It called for a new court-martial, and Dreyfus was again found guilty. Such was the outcry among his supporters that President Émile Loubet pardoned him a few days later.
But a good deal of public opinion still considered him guilty. When he attended Zola's funeral in 1902, he was wounded in an attempted assassination. Finally, in 1903, a new leftof-center government ordered the Supreme Court to review the findings of the 1899 court-martial. In 1906, Dreyfus was finally vindicated.
Evidently it is easier to celebrate the centenary of that triumph of justice than it was to spotlight earlier anniversaries of less heartening moments in the affair. In 1994, 100 years after Dreyfus was charged, a French Army historian cast doubt on Dreyfus's innocence by describing it as "the thesis" now generally accepted by historians. And in 1999, the centenary of the second court-martial, no mea culpa was heard from the army.
One novelty in the exhibition at the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism, which continues through Oct. 1, is the show's emphasis on Dreyfus himself. Often portrayed as an impassive observer of his own tragedy, he is presented here as a fervent champion of his innocence.
That is also the thesis of a new biography, "Alfred Dreyfus: The Honor of a Patriot," by Vincent Duclert, a French historian who organized the exhibition with Anne Hélène Hoog, a curator at the museum.
Further, in what seems like a valiant attempt to close the Dreyfus Affair, Mr. Duclert has now proposed that Dreyfus's remains be laid alongside those of Zola in the Panthéon, the final resting place of French Republican heroes. Any decision would have to be made by President Jacques Chirac, who has reportedly decided instead to preside over a special ceremony at the École Militaire on the anniversary next Wednesday.
In any event, Jean-Louis Lévy, Dreyfus's grandson, feels the moment is still not ripe to move the remains.
"Many people visit his tomb in the cemetery of Montparnasse," Mr. Lévy said in an interview with Tribune de Genève. "It is simple and modest, much as he was. He's without doubt better off there than in the Panthéon beside Zola."
Mr. Lévy then offered a more disturbing reason for opposing a move. "I fear it could awaken anti-Semitism," he said.
Elias Friedman A.S., NREMT-P