Recommended things to do and see
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Metro: Ecole Militaire Swarming crowds of tourists from around the world flock each year to the 7th arrondisment, many of them converging in one place- that of the omnipresent “Iron Lady.” The most visible and recognizable of all Paris landmarks and the most visited. the elegant latticework structure of the Eiffel Tower was built to be the archway to the 1889 World’s Fair. The evening light show of the Eiffel Tower is best enjoyed sprawled on the grass of the Champs de Mars, one of the largest parks in Paris. The impressive classical façade of the military school that trained Napoleon and the armies that conquered Europe, ironically founded by the Bourbon kings who were overthrown and beheaded in the Revolution, lies just behind the Champs de Mars. Napoleon’s final resting place sits under the golden dome of the Hotel des Invalides, one of the gems of the Paris skyline. The cobblestone streets of the left bank are the pathway to some of the most spectacular scenery in Paris and some of the best cafes and most notable art museums. The Jewish community is not large here, but the military school was the scene of a pivotal event in the Jewish history of France.
The Dreyfus Affair
It was in the courtyard of L’Ecole Militaire that Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew from Alsace, was stripped of his rank and had his sword broken to cries of “mort au Juifs” (“Death to the Jews”) in 1894. Convicted of having sent French military secrets to the Germans, Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment on the penal colony of Devil’s Island in French Guiana. A few years later, evidence of his innocence came to light and the editorial comment entitled “J’Accuse”, written by Emile Zola and accusing the French government of an anti-Jewish bias, appeared in French newspapers. The essay pointed out the lack of evidence, called the trial a “sham” and Dreyfus a scapegoat for the humiliation of the French army at the hands of the Prussians. Major Georges Picquart then stepped forward with evidence of forgery in the Dreyfus case, and was promptly court-martialed and exiled for his integrity. The Dreyfus affair became a cause de celebre that divided the nation, creating a swell of popular support from the left that resulted in a change of government and a pardon for Dreyfus and Picquart.
The Dreyfus affair divided the nation of France, but it also created a focal point for the nation’s identity. The strength of the left wing elements of society coalesced around the plight of Captain Dreyfus and legislation such as the one in 1905 that separated church and state in France was a direct result of the victory of the “Dreyfusards”. The simmering resentment of the right wing element took their revenge by collaborating with the Nazis, but many of the most influential Zionists, including Theodor Herzl, founder of the World Zionist
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