When the Innocent Suffer for the Crimes of the Few: The Troubled History of the Jews of France


PRIOR to the third quarter of the nineteenth century, France underwent a violent succession of revolutions and counter-revolutions, changing its political figureheads almost as often as the average Parisian whore might change her undergarments. Politics, after all, and particularly in France, was always a very sordid and lamentable affair.

One prominent figure who had already spoken out against Jews, albeit in an extremely veiled fashion, was the Enlightenment philosopher, Denis Diderot (1713-1784). When, in 1751, he published a French translation of Ephraim Chambers’ (1680-1740) Cyclopaedia, or a Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, he had included his own contribution on Jewish philosophy and used it as an opportunity to denigrate the Jews themselves. Ironically, when the book was issued Diderot was accused of being part of a secret conspiracy to subvert the Church.

The nation’s torrid and unpredictable passage of modern history began in 1789, with the French Revolution, a time when France was home to between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews. The eighteenth century had seen the fluctuating fortunes of the country’s Jewish community rise considerably, particularly when the authorities began turning a blind eye to their nefarious money-lending practices. Most of the Jews in Paris had arrived from Germany and Portugal, and were therefore comprised of both Ashhenazi and Sephardic blood.

Among those who began to tolerate the presence of these traditional outsiders were prominent French Christians, many of whom considered it their duty to protect and nurture those who would feature so prominently during the much-vaunted and long-awaited End Times. Religious prophecy, however, was not always the sole motive among the most supportive elements within the French population and some merely wished to strengthen their financial interests and, thus, rely on the Jews whenever they needed to secure a loan. The dependance between Gentile and Jew, therefore, was often mutual and for every voracious little Shylock there were forty or fifty eager borrowers who chose to live far beyond their means. In 1775, a Jewish philanthropist called Herz Cerfbeer of Medelsheim (1730-1793) was granted citizenship by King Louis XVI (1754-1793) in return for providing arable land to help alleviate the terrible famine of 1770-1. In 1794, a Jewish banking family that had been founded by Beer Léon Foulda (1757-1865), a wine-dealer’s son from Lorraine, began operating in Paris. Foulda’s son, Achille Fould (1800-1867), was elected as a deputy in the Hautes-Pyrénées department and later went on to serve as the country’s Finance Minister on no less than four separate occasions.

Meanwhile, in 1785, just four years prior to the French Revolution, Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (1721-1794), a leading minister and defense counsel to Louis XVI, saw to it that conditions for the country’s Jews were vastly improved and that they were allowed to forego the controversial poll-tax and settle throughout the Kingdom for the very first time. By 1787 Honoré Gabriel Riqueti (1749-1791), Comte de Mirabeau, and a Catholic priest by the name of Henri Grégoire (1750-1831), or Abbé Grégoire, arranged a meeting with the leading Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), to discuss the issue of emancipation. In his famous pamphlet, Sur Moses Mendelssohn, sur la Réforme Politique des Juifs, Mirabeau argued that French Jews should be provided with full citizenship.

When the Revolution arrived in 1789, many ordinary Jews participated in the election of the Estates-General (États-Généraux), an assembly comprised of the clergy (First Estate), the nobility (Second Estate) and the commoners (Third Estate). The Estates-General, the first of its kind held since 1614, had been summoned by Louis XVI to discuss the country’s financial problems that had arisen in the wake of the Seven Years’ War that France had waged between 1754 and 1763. Louis XVI, who opposed the move, had attempted to raise taxation without referral to what he considered to be an archaic and outdated institution. In reality, his attempt to exclude his subjects from the decision-making process the previous year meant that it became a struggle between the ‘Divine Right’ of his own monarchical institution and what was tantamount to a new democratic challenge. When the King’s ally, Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne (1727-1794), replaced Charles Alexandre (1734-1802), Vicomte de Calonne, as finance minister and handed Louis XVI a blank cheque, rather than the more specific tax allowances agreed by the French Parliament, it was met with fierce resistance. In an attempt to silence the opposition, Louis Philippe II (1747-1793), Duc d’Orléans, a relative of the King and a staunch revolutionary, was thrown in prison along with two of his supporters and Louis XVI began to consider the complete dismissal of Parliament.

On May 3rd, 1788, those who stood against the King made a solemn vow to strongly resist all efforts to disband Parliament. Despite this agreement, however, the Royal Guards forcibly entered Parliament, arrested the protagonists and handed the keys to the premises over to the King himself. Beginning at Rennes, in the north-west, a series of violent protests spread across the length and breadth of the country. With the formation of the Jacobin Society (Club des Jacobins), itself inspired by the fiery pronouncements of Thomas Paine (1737-1809) that led to the successful promulgation of the 1776 American Revolution, the position of Louis XVI became increasingly untenable.

Although the King made attempts to pacify his increasingly unruly population and had agreed to an election, by the Spring of 1789 the Estates-General was in uproar over matters concerning the balance of power. Rather than discuss the unresolved issue of taxation, therefore, the debate soon turned to the Constitution and all three estates found themselves at loggerheads with one another. Disagreements over whether the first two estates had an unfair advantage in the voting procedure also led to the Third Estate forming an assembly and inviting the others to join on its own terms. Although the King tried to reverse this process and restore the three separate chambers, the Estates-General collapsed and was replaced by the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale) and, some time later, by the National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante).

After the Third Estate had taken power, things began to move very rapidly indeed. July 1789 saw a riotous mob of 60,000 Parisians steal 28,000 muskets from a military hospital and liberate the inmates of the notorious Bastille prison, an event that was secretly facilitated by the fact that the ever-opportunistic Duc d’Orléans had deliberately withheld grain supplies in order to incite a starving French public to revolt. Orléanists were even said to have handed out coins in the street in return for violence, vandalism and other forms of subversive behaviour. The following month saw the approval of the new Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen). The powers of the Church had been limited, feudalism abolished and France itself divided between the supporters of the revolutionary government and those who wished to restore the Ancien Régime. In January 1793, meanwhile, King Louis XVI was formerly executed and regicide was added to the country’s growing list of achievements.

That which – as far as mainstream historians are concerned, at least – is endlessly paraded as a decidedly French affair that channelled the indomitable will of the French people, was being directed from behind the scenes by a secret coterie of Freemasons and Jews. As Vicomte Léon de Poncins (1897-1975) notes, an internationalist effort to eradicate both the ‘Divine Right’ enjoyed by Louis XVI and the power of a Catholic hierarchy that found expression through the First Estate, meant that

social order is without defence, and the former discipline and hierarchy can be abolished at leisure. As they cannot enter into open warfare with the Church, the Masons attack its natural supports, monarchy and aristocracy. The inner meaning of this warfare is not only political, but essentially social and religious, for Western civilisation is founded upon Christian ideas and discipline. [1]

Whilst there is much evidence to support what was clearly a far-reaching Masonic conspiracy, something that had also played a key role in the American Revolution of 1776, it is comparatively less easy to provide solid evidence for the Jewish involvement. At the same time, it is a fact that Masonry acted as a convenient smokescreen for those Jews with little or no interest in notions of social justice. As the Abbé Joseph Lémann explains in his 1886 work, L’Entee des Israelites dans la Societe Francaise:

The subservience of Freemasonry with regard to the Jews soon showed itself. How? . . . When the question of Jewish emancipation came to be examined by the Constituent Assembly (1789-1791) the deputies who took upon themselves the task of getting it voted were all Freemasons. [2]

Indeed, the case for Jewish emancipation was referred to the Constituent Assembly on no less than fourteen separate occasions.

From the perspective of ordinary Jews, rather than the handful of conspirators who, on the whole, had lain undetected, things were rather different. Whilst the community at large had been allowed to participate in the election of the 1789 Estates-General in Bordeaux and Bayonne, despite the relaxation of anti-Jewish legislation those residing in Alsace, Lorraine and Paris had been denied the right to vote altogether. Ordinary Jewish houses were also targetted by rioters during the fall of the Bastille, so the forces that had been unleashed by their Masonic co-racialists ironically ended up affecting those Jews who were entirely blameless.

One Jew who played a significant role during the French Revolution was Zalkind Hourwitz (1751–1812). Originally from Poland, Hourwitz wrote a passionate essay called Vindication of the Jews, in which he replied to a question that had been posed in August 1788 by the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in the city of Metz with regard to practical ways of making the lives of ordinary Jews happier and more productive. Hourwitz, whose award-winning essay was finally published in March 1789, was not one for mincing his words:

The means of making the Jews happy and useful? This is it: stop making them unhappy and useless. Give them, or rather return to them the right of citizens, which you’ve denied them against all divine and human laws and against your own interests, like a man who thoughtlessly cripples himself. [3]

In May 1789, Hourwitz was appointed Secretaire-interprete of the Bibliothèque du Roi and, by September, his Vindication of the Jews received a lengthy review in the pages of the Journal de Paris. The following month, he donated a quarter of his net salary to the cause of the French Revolution.

On December 22nd, 1789, the question of Jewish emancipation appeared on the agenda once again and a bill was presented to the National Assembly by, amongst others, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), Adrien Duport (1759-1798), Antoine Barnave (1761-1793) and Stanislas Adélaïde (1757-1792), comte de Clermont-Tonnerre. The latter, in particular, keenly disputed the concerns of the Third Estate that Jews represented a state-within-a-state, although he himself also had a very limited interpretation of what emancipation should actually involve. As he noted in his speech:

To the Jews as individuals – everything; to the Jews as a nation – nothing.[4]

The fact that such prominent figures were so eager to achieve this objective in the midst of revolutionary chaos tells us a great deal about who was actually directing things at the helm. Opposition from leading religious figures such as the French cardinal and politician, Jean-Sifrein Maury (1746-1817), led to the request being postponed yet again and it was not until January 28th, 1790, when a majority vote decreed that only the Portuguese and Avignonese Jews, each of whom had already been naturalised, could become full citizens. In addition, by June 1790 Hourwitz himself had appeared before the National Assembly as part of “a delegation of foreigners”. A significant victory had been achieved and, in late-September 1791, a decree known as the Loi relative aux Juifs finally saw to it that the remaining French Jews were granted full citizenship. Curiously enough, the term ‘Juifs’ was solely related to adherents of the Judaic religion and not to their actual ethnicity. Things did not go entirely to plan, however, and in October 1792 Hourwitz was dismissed from his position at the Bibliothèque Nationale with eleven of his colleagues and in January 1793 he tried to clarify his own political stance by stating publicly that he was opposed to the execution of the King.

Following the notable decree of September 1791, the country as a whole went on to experience increasing uncertainty between September 5th, 1793, and July 28th, 1794, when the so-called Reign of Terror led to violent conflict between the Girondin and Jacobin factions and mass executions on both sides. In the Alsace districts, such as the Bas-Rhin, innocent Jews were persecuted by those who sought retaliation for the more shadowy Judaeo-Masonic conspirators who had seized control. Not all Jewish citizens were innocent, however, and those in the banking sector who had tried to benefit from the turmoil by lending money at huge sums of interest to the Girondin faction were forced to flee for their lives. Some even found themselves arrested, thrown into prison and executed. Religious Jews, on the other hand, fell victim to new secular legislation that had completely stripped their Catholic counterparts of their former privileges and turned France into a nation centred on the principles of ‘Reason’. As Hourwitz demanded to know why foreigners were being preventing from residing in Paris, as well as in coastal areas, synagogues were burned to the ground and the celebration of the Jewish Sabbath was outlawed in Strasbourg, Troyes and several other eastern cities.


Between 1795 and 1799, France underwent two further coups d’état and this led to the downfall of the Directory and the subsequent foundation of the Consulate. Having engineered the Coup of 18 Brumaire on November 9th, 1799 – or Year VIII, as it was known – General Napoleon Bonaparte came to power as First Consul of France. Indeed, despite the fact that he was just one of three consuls – the others being Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès (1753-1824), 1st Duke of Parma, and Charles-François Lebrun (1739-1824), 1st duc de Plaisance, Napoleon was considerably more powerful than his two associates and was able to appoint the Senate and, in turn, interpret the Constitution. Despite the revolutionary pretensions of the previous decade, therefore, Napoleon’s ascendency led to the rise of the First French Empire. In 1800 the Emperor Napoleon helped establish the Bank of France and, between then until 1815, became the greatest ally the Jews of France could have hoped for. During his siege of Acre in 1799, Napoleon released a proclamation to the Jews of Africa and Asia in which he called for them to unite under his banner to restore the ancient capital of Jerusalem. Napoleon himself, therefore, may well be regarded as a proto-Zionist and it was only defeat at the hands of the British which ended his imperialist dreams of a Franco-Jewish conquest of the Middle East.

Not only did Napoleon go on to liberate and empower those Jews living in the ghettoes of every land he conquered in the name of France, in 1806 he also helped to create a Jewish representative body known as the Grand Sanhedrin. Elsewhere, in 1808, he established a national Israelite Consistory that had sub-committees for each French region. Napoleon ensured that all laws and resolutions approved by the National Assembly were enforced by the leaders of the Jewish community itself, and made attempts to encourage Jews to join the French Army and turn away from usury by learning mechanics. Among those who were more religious and conservative, these social changes were

greeted by the Jews as akin to the end of days, and Jews who wrote about Napoleon often did so in terms that contained messianic references, as in special prayers composed in response to the events of his reign. The new Jewish Reform movement, especially in Germany and Hungary, internalized the values of liberalism and equality, seeing the grant of equal rights not only as the end of persecution but also as an almost cosmic event that transformed the Jewish Diaspora. [5]

Meanwhile, one governmental proclamation in particular – issued in Hebrew, French, German and Italian – was dismissed by Napoleon’s detractors as a form of political opportunism and he later boasted that he had the Sanhedrin itself to thank for the fact that his armies were so heavily comprised of Jews during the French invasion of Prussia. The following year, along with Catholicism and selected forms of Protestantism, Napoleon made Judaism one of the country’s three official religions. However, on March 17th, 1808, Napoleon angered sections of the Jewish community when he passed the “Infamous Decree” that annulled all existing loans and led to a minor financial collapse. Alsatian Jews were ordered to obtain special permission to conduct business and loans to Christians had to be carried out under the direction of notaries at rates of interest that could not exceed 5%. The move had come about after Napoleon had realised his grave mistake in allowing the Grand Sanhedrin to enjoy the kind of power that led to the spread of usury and the financial enslavement of the poor and destitute. Indeed, Jewish financial practices later inspired huge pogroms in both 1832 and 1848. As Napoleon remarked some years later:

I wanted to make them leave off usury, and become like other men […] by putting them upon an equality, with Catholics, Protestants, and others, I hoped to make them become good citizens, and conduct themselves like others of the community […] as their rabbins explained to them, that they ought not to practise usury to their own tribes, but were allowed to do so with Christians and others, that, therefore, as I had restored them to all their privileges […] they were not permitted to practise usury with me or them, but to treat us as if we were of the tribe of Judah. Besides, I should have drawn great wealth to France as the Jews are very numerous, and would have flocked to a country where they enjoyed such superior privities. Moreover, I wanted to establish an universal liberty of conscience. [6]

Napoleon soon rectified his lack of good judgement by enforcing his own despotic powers throughout the country, although his suppression of the press, heavy defeat amid the relentless snows of the Russian steppes and the country’s invasion by Austrians, Prussians and Russians themselves eventually led to his downfall. Napoleon was sent to an ignominious and humiliating exile on the island prison of Elba.

The remarks Napoleon made in exile do not tell the full story, however, and whilst he had encouraged ordinary Jews to become soldiers or find more acceptable forms of employment, he made no attempt to prevent Jewish financiers from seizing control of the country’s purse-strings. In 1812, for example, immediately prior to the 1813-14 War of the Sixth Coalition, James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868) moved to Paris and opened for business. As one of five banking brothers and head of the French branch of the notorious Rothschild family, which, even today, is still the hidden hand behind the Jewish-led virus of international finance and, thus, countless governments all over the world, James Mayer was able to exert financial control over the French Government and even King Leopold I (1790-1865) in neighbouring Belgium. The patriarch of the family, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), had forged his inestimable fortune in Frankfurt before depositing his sons in five different countries and encouraging them to exert their pernicious influence throughout the entire Continent. By 1822 James Mayer and his four brothers had ingratiated themselves with the leading denizens of European monarchy to such an extent that Emperor Francis II (1768-1935) of Austria had awarded them the hereditary title of ‘Baron’.

To give the reader an indication of the enduring incestuousness that takes place between these oligarchical banking families, as late as 1947 a certain Baron Élie Robert de Rothschild (1917-2007), heir to the French branch of the family, married Liliane Fould-Springer (1916-2003), herself the heir of the aforementioned Fould dynasty. If you recall, the Foulds had already established their financial empire in Paris prior to the arrival of the Rothschilds themselves. Unfortunately, those who reject the idea that wealthy Jewish families continue to control the world conveniently fail to take these facts into consideration. In fact prior to the marriage of Élie and Liliane, Baroness Noémie Halphen (1888-1968) – a Fould descendent and wealthy property developer – married the art collector, vineyard owner, financier and politician Maurice de Rothschild (1881–1957) in 1909. As far as these professional leeches are concerned, therefore, the expression ‘keep it in the family’ knows no bounds.

Returning to the nineteenth century, in 1814 the National Assembly asked Louis XVIII (1755-1824) to occupy the throne and, despite the fact that his Royal predecessor had been so brutally murdered on the scaffold just twenty-one years earlier, the country thus reverted to monarchy. The restoration of the Bourbon dynasty, however, which began in April that year, was incredibly short lived and when Napoeon engineered his thrilling escape from Elba on February 26th, 1815, gathering at Cannes with 1,000 of his loyal supporters, King Louis XVIII was forced to seek asylum in the Netherlands and Napoleon once again tried to force his indomitable will on the nation. Disastrously, however, in mid-June 1815 he met his match in Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington, who so famously defeated him on the plains of Waterloo. Louis XVIII returned to France in the wake of Napoleon’s defeat, but found that his powers had been limited and that he was now forced to accept ‘legitimist’ decisions framed by an increasingly authoritarian council of advisors.

Typically, the Rothschild family – in its own opportunistic manner – had also been involved in the Battle of Waterloo and had actively financed both sides in the affair. By sending out a series of couriers on horseback, each of whom was able to relay details pertaining to the course of the war to the family itself, the banking dynasty was able to speculate on the stock market and make an enormous profit. It goes without saying that the disgusting activities of Jewish financiers had an extremely negative impact on the reputation of ordinary Jews throughout France as a whole. Interestingly, in 1823 the English poet, Lord Byron (1788-1824), mentioned the close relationship between Napoleon and the Rothschild family in Canto 12/5 of Don Juan:

Who hold the balance of the World? Who reign / O’er congress, whether royalist or liberal? / Who rouse the shirtless patriots of Spain? / (That make old Europe’s journals “squeak and gibber” all) / Who keep the World, both old and new, in pain / Or pleasure? Who make politics run glibber all? / The shade of Buonaparte’s noble daring?– / Jew Rothschild, and his fellow-Christian, Baring. [7]

By the time Louis XVIII had died of gangrene on September 16th, 1824, a significant number of French Jews had risen to high positions in the military, the judiciary and both the arts and sciences. His Charter of 1814 – one of his few achievements – had led to an increase in religious freedom and, despite the blood and fury that had affected the country during its most formative period, the community as a whole had made enormous gains. The most significant factor in this development had been the Vienna Congress, staged between September 1814 and June 1815, when representatives from the leading European powers met to discuss the way forward in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The Congress itself met at the Apollosaal, a building that had been designed by the Jewish physician and mechanic, Sigmund Wolfssohn (1767-1852). As if that wasn’t in itself significant, those attending the Congress were entertained in the luxurious salons of some of Austria’s most prestigious Jewish socialites, among them Baroness Franziska “Fanny” von Arnstein (1758-1818), the wife of a wealthy banker, and her sister Cecily Eskeles (1760-1836). The Austrian aristocracy, too, and particularly Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773-1859), had close ties with their own branch of the Rothschild banking industry:

Salomon von Rothschild had been ennobled as Baron Rothschild and many of the grand aristocratic families banked with the Rothschilds, among them Metternich’s relatives, the Zichys and the Esterhazys. Metternich’s third wife, Melanie Zichy-Farrari, was a close friend of Salomon’s sisters-in-law, Betty Rothschild in Paris and Adelheid Rothschild in Naples. Salomon’s brothers served as honorary Austrian consuls in Frankfurt, London and Paris. [8]

Naturally, of course, the Congress broached the perpetual issue of Jewish emancipation and those at the forefront of these discussions – including representatives from Germany such as the philosopher, Wilhelm von Humbolt (1767-1835), and well-respected statesman, Karl-August von Hardenberg (1750-1822) – attempted to secure the same privileged status for French Jews as those recently acquired by their cousins in Germany. Such designs clearly had more in common with Jewish financial interests across Europe than with anything relating to human rights and the freedom of ordinary Jews.


In the wake of Louis XVIII’s death, in 1824, his place on the Bourbon throne was taken by his younger brother, Charles X (1757-1836). Even prior to the Royal Coronation of May 29th, 1825, at the Cathedral of Reims, Charles had advocated the removal of financial privileges for the French aristocracy in the wake of the country’s military adventures in the Seven Years’ War and American War of Independence, although he did not believe that the same cost-cutting measures should be applied either to the Church or the nobility. During the 1789 Revolution, the young Charles was forced into exile at Savoy and, until he came to his senses, had been planning to stage a counter-revolutionary invasion of France in order to reassert the power and authority of his elder sibling’s monarchy.

The revolutionary upheavals forced the future king to relocate to London, although he eventually went to southern France to become involved in the 1813-14 War of the Sixth Coalition that saw Prussia, Austria, Russia, Great Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and various German states drive Napoleon into exile. After Louis XVIII had recovered his throne in 1815, 70,000 officials were purged from the administration, the Napoleonic Army was disbanded, 6,000 of his supporters were brought to trial and 300 more lynched at Marseilles. Charles performed a highly-active role in the financial strengthening of his brother’s rule and was assisted in this task by ultra-Royalists such as Jules de Polignac (1780-1847), François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) and Jean-Baptiste de Villèle (1773-1854). Ten years on, when Charles X himself came to power, he did not feel that he had to temper his undisguised ambition to restore the Ancien Régime in the way that Louis XVIII had been forced to do. This, however, was to be his undoing.

Charles X gave his Prime Minister, Jean-Baptiste de Villèle, a list of the legislation he wished to see implemented on each occasion the French Parliament opened. In April 1825, the National Assembly ratified a bill that had previously been approved by his brother, giving compensation to those nobles who had lost property during the Revolution. This resulted in a total of 988 million francs being taken out of Treasury funds. By April 1827, his popularity was increasing to such an extent that a serious public disturbance greeted his review of the National Guard in Paris. When de Villèle lost his parliamentary majority during the General Election, he was dismissed and replaced with Jean-Baptise de Martignac (1778-1832). Charles had little time for the new Prime Minister and soon handed the role to his old friend and ally, Jules de Polignac, although he too lost his parliamentary majority.

In order to hold onto office, de Polignac delayed the re-opening of Parliament until March 1830, by which time a festering air of discontent was growing among Charles’ political opponents. Some of the deputies introduced a bill which required the Prime Minister to obtain the support of the Chambers, but the King managed to suspend activities for a further two weeks by pushing for an immediate General Election. On June 23rd, when the elections took place, Charles and his government did not get the majority they were looking for and the King therefore went ahead and suspended the Constitution, censored the press, changed the electoral system to suit himself and then called for new elections in September. This led to riots in the Palais-Royal gardens, with many shops being looted and members of the National Guard deciding to change sides and oppose the King. When Charles X heard about the protests he refused to compromise and dismissed his ministers, leading to members of the Chamber deciding that he should be replaced by Louis Philippe (1773-1850), cousin of the murdered King Louis XVI and leader of the rival Orléanist faction.

On July 31st, 1830, when Charles X was in Saint-Cloud, to the west of the capital, a band of Parisians decided to attack his residence and he was forced to seek refuge at Versailles. By August 2nd, Charles had abdicated, but rather than agree to hand over power to Louis Philippe he appointed his nine-year-old grandson, Henry of Artoi (1820-1883), to succeed him as Henry V. On August 9th, however, the child’s position was invalidated when when Louis Philippe had himself proclaimed king by the members of the Chamber. He reign had lasted just seven days.

According to the Catholic priest and philosopher, Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782-1854), a number of liberal Jews had a hand in the removal of Charles X. As Julie Kalman explains:

In Lamennais’ writings of the 1830s, Jews play the role of capitalists: the Jews were “a people devoured by a thirst for gold,” driven by their “abject avidity.” [9]

Indeed, as the Jewish Anarchist, Bernard Lazare (1865-1903), has noted, large-scale involvement of Jews in various insurrectionary acts – not merely in France, but throughout the world – remains an incontrovertible fact:

During the second revolutionary period which began in 1830 they showed even more fervour than during the first. They were moreover directly concerned for, in the majority of European states, they did not enjoy full civic rights. Even those among them who were not revolutionaries by reason or by temperament were such by self-interest; in working for the triumph of liberalism they were working for themselves. There is no doubt that by their gold, their energy, their ability, they supported and assisted the European revolution […] During those years their bankers, their industrial magnates, their poets, their writers, their demagogues, prompted by very different ideas moreover, strove for the same end… [10]

Charles X was thus forced into exile for a second time and returned to London, whilst the newly-crowned Louis Philippe I began to settle into his role. Interestingly, however, it wasn’t long before the King turned his attention to the Jewish Question. By February 1831, Louis Philippe had ratified a bill that had already been passed in the Chamber of Peers by 89 votes to 57, meaning that the final barriers to Jewish equality in the eyes of the law had been removed. Furthermore, the rabbinical college at Metz was made into a state institution and provided with generous funding, whilst those debts incurred by members of the country’s Jewish community prior to the Revolution were systematically erased. In 1833, the so-called Guizot Law destroyed traditional Jewish education by outlawing forms of education provided by “unlicensed instructors” and Jewish children were forced to attend public primary schools alongside their young French counterparts. As a result, those Jewish pupils who had studied little more than the Talmud now began learning Maths, Geography, French History and French Language for the very first time. Another key development for the Jews of France was the removal of the More Judaico oath from the statute books. Only Jews were required to undertake such an oath, but when the future Chief Rabbi of Paris, Isidor Lazare (1814–1888), blatantly refused to comply with the regulation at the Court of Nîmes in 1846 he was vigorously defended by a top Jewish lawyer by the name of Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880) and the medieval law was finally rendered obsolete.

The first half of the nineteenth century saw the German states of Prussia (1812), Württemberg (1828), the Electorate of Hesse (1833) and Hanover (1842) grant full emancipation to their Jewish citizens, although many were still held back when it came to finding employment in areas of education and public service. In an equally insidious and, as France would soon discover, alarming development, 1848 saw Jewish ideologue Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his German patron, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), issue their Communist Manifesto and incite workers to foment class war on the streets of Europe.

Meanwhile, back in France, eighteen years into King Louis Philippe’s reign, that same year saw the country presented with yet another serious crisis. As the Jews of neighbouring Germany were eagerly attaining their citizenship, by 1834 Louis Philippe was borrowing enormous sums of money from James Mayer de Rothschild and this came with a price. Not only was the King pressured into accepting Jews into the highest echelons of French society, but Rothschild himself was also made Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour. In the period immediately prior to the 1830 Revolution, the banking family had actively supported the House of Orleans and was already selling French government bonds to French investors by way of London to maintain its anonymity. The fact that the Rothschilds had such little hesitation in switching both their national and international allegiances at the drop of a proverbial hat, so to speak, meant that their personal fortune rose from £55,000 in 1815 to £3,541,700 by 1852 and then, one decade after James Meyer’s own death in 1868, a staggering £16,914,000. This figure, by twentieth-century standards, is closer to £1,700,000,000.

Unsurprisingly, the loathsome activities of the Rothschilds and other wealthy Jewish families led to the demonization of all Jews and, in 1847, leading French naturalist Alphonse Toussenel (1803-1885) produced a work entitled Les Juifs, Rois de l’époque: Histoire de la Féodalité Financière (‘The Jews, Kings of the Epoch: History of Financial Feudalism’) in which he associated the Jewish spirit with capitalism itself. He states:

Every unproductive parasite living off the work of someone else, Jew, usurer, money-dealer – all are synonymous to me. [11]

The fact that Louis Philippe was known to his people as the ‘Bourgeois Monarch’ and that the French economy was becoming increasingly indebted to the insatiable appetite of the Rothschilds, meant that the King’s popularity – such as it was – was now in rapid decline. Indeed, the power of the banking houses had become so strong that one prominent French financier, Jacques Laffitte (1767-1844), openly declared that the bankers were ruling the country. Laffitte, who was not himself of Jewish extraction, was Governor of the Bank of France and had served as a liberal member of the Chamber of Deputies during the Bourbon Restoration and July Monarchy. The thin line between money and politics, therefore, was becoming increasingly blurred.

By 1848, Orléanist liberals such as Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) had turned against Louis Philippe due to his reluctance to accept parliamentarianism and before long a burgeoning Reform Movement had gathered around the critical La Réforme newspaper. Government corruption, large-scale unemployment and rising bread prices led to frequent disturbances in the streets and, in October 1847, when Marxist agitator Friedrich Engels visited Paris and began contributing articles to La Réforme, even helping to initiate a series of inflammatory meetings known as the Campagne des banquets, Louis Philippe’s days became numbered. In February 1848, thousands of Parisians took to the streets to demonstrate against the injustices of the Monarchy and its corrupt financial aristocracy. When a large number of citizens gathered outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, soldiers fired into the crowd and fifty-two people were killed. Cutting down trees and overturning vehicles, angry demonstrators erected barricades in the streets and converged on the Royal Palace. Louis Philippe, forever destined to be known as the last French king, was forced to abdicate and eventually fled to Britain.

On February 26th, 1848, liberals came together to form a Second Republic and Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869), a famous poet, was elected first president. One month later, universal male suffrage was declared and by May a series of National Workshops had been established to find employment for ordinary French people. One champion of liberal ideas was the Jewish lawyer and statesman, Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880), who, as vice-president of the Consistory and elected member of the Chamber of Deputies from 1842 onwards, campaigned vigorously for the recognition of Jewish rights. He later secured full citizenship for those Jews living in French-occupied Algeria. Another key figure in the world of Jewish emancipation was Michel Goudchaux (1797-1862), a Jewish banker who twice served as Minister of Finance in the Second Republic. Like Crémieux, Goudchaux wished to remove the final barriers to Jewish equality and also demanded free education for workers, the establishment of producer co-operatives and the protection of small businesses in general.

Nonetheless, the liberals were too ill-equipt to organise the country’s economy and this handed their conservative opponents on the Right – outraged by new taxation levels, which they completely ignored – an opportunity to take full advantage in the French elections. Despite complaints from the Left, voters chose to elect a National Constituent Assembly which was highly conservative in nature and Jacques-Charles Dupont de l’Eure (1767-1855), who had served as the Chairman of the provisional government, now made way for an Executive Commission. This latter was a governmental body comprised of five co-presidents and acted collectively as Head of State.

With the main protagonists of the Revolution becoming concerned that their radical ideals were being undermined, Parisian workers were encouraged to revolt and invaded the Assembly en masse in order to proclaim a new Provisional Government. This attempt to establish a genuine working class administration was quickly suppressed and the leaders of this revolution within a revolution – Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), Armand Barbès (1809-1870), François Vincent Raspail (1794-1878) and several others – were arrested and brought to trial. On June 23rd, 1848, the conservatives ensured that the National Workshops were shut down and this led to 170,000 citizens taking to the streets in protest. Barricades were erected once more and the troops of the National Guard sent in to put down the anarcho-socialist resistance over the course of two days. On June 28th, General Louis Eugène Cavaignac (1802-1857) – the man responsible for crushing the June Days rebellion itself and leader of the so-called ‘Party of Order’, was appointed Head of the French State and, that December, a presidential election between four bitterly opposed candidates saw Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-1873) finish in pole-position with a total of 5,587,759 votes. As the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, the new leader of France became Emperor Napoléon III. By December 2nd, 1851, Louis-Napoléon went on to further consolidate his rule by effectively staging a coup d’état in which he audaciously dissolved the National Assembly and silenced his opponents completely.

Whilst this act effectively brought the hopes and dreams of the 1848 Revolution to an end, from a Jewish perspective it did not bring the kind of emancipation enjoyed by their cousins in Germany. A parasitical minority had certainly benefitted from the bourgeois character of Louis-Philippe’s reign, but a far larger number of ordinary Jews – many of them activists with the French labour movement – had to make do with a few piecemeal changes. Universal male suffrage had certainly helped to ‘democratise’ the Jewish community and take a certain degree of power away from its religious leaders, but as far as most indigenous French people were concerned Jews in general were still a potentially dangerous fifth column and therefore not to be trusted.


Having silenced its liberal detractors in December 1851, during the course of the next two decades Louis-Napoléon’s authoritarian regime went on to drastically modernise the French economy – including the construction of the Suez Canal and the development of a vast shipping network connecting France to North Africa, the Far East and the Americas – before undertaking a sixteen-year public works programme that changed the entire face of the country’s troubled capital. After forging an alliance with Great Britain, the Emperor and his generals spent three years (1853-56) fighting the Crimean War. The French eventually lost a total of 95,000 soldiers, 75,000 of whom had perished due to contracting typhus, but Napoléon III ordered the press to censor all details. Russia, on the other hand, had been defeated and the 1856 Congress of Paris led to a peace treaty being signed by France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Sardinia, Russia, Austria and Prussia.

On January 14th, 1858, as the rapacious James Mayer de Rothschild was about to move into the luxurious surroundings of the Château de Ferrières at Ferrières-en-Brie, built with money obtained from the blood and sweat of the French people, Louis-Napoléon and his Empress were almost assassinated when three bombs were hurled at the Royal carriage by the Italian nationalist revolutionary, Felice Orsini (1819-1858), and two of his fellow conspirators from the Carbonari. The Emperor later expressed his support for the autonomous claims of Piedmont-Sardinia, or Kingdom of Sardinia, and involved France in a campaign to drive the Austrians from Italy itself. On April 23rd, 1859, Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916) declared war, but due to his alliance with Papal troops Napolon’s Italian campaign was a success and both Savoy and Nice became French territory.

In 1860, Adolphe Crémieux founded the Alliance Israelite Universelle in order to provide Jews with both education and a means for political, social and legal emancipation. Founded in Paris, the project opened its first school in Morocco in 1862, before opening a second school in Baghdad in 1864 and then extending its influence across Western Europe and managing, five years later, to persuade the governments of France, Italy, Holland and Belgium to force Switzerland into granting full citizenship to the members of its own Jewish community. Louis-Napoléon, in an attempt to build upon the close ties that his uncle and namesake had forged with the Jews of France several decades earlier, gave the Alliance Israelite Universelle his full blessing.

In the Summer of 1870, just eleven months after Lucie Eugénie Hadamard (1869-1945), future wife of Alfred Dreyfus, had been born into a traditional Jewish family in the French town of Chatou, the disatrous Franco-Prussian War arrived to propel the country towards its next serious catastrophe. War had broken out after Napoléon III finally decided to take action against the increasing threat of German reunification under the Prussian emperor, William I (1797-1888). On July 16th, 1870, after the Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), had set out to provoke his French counterparts by deliberately absorbing the German states of Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt into an alliance with the North German Confederation, the French parliament declared war on its neighbours and began its military advance three days later. The Prussians, however, quickly crossed into the north-eastern territories of the Second French Republic and took Louis-Napoléon himself prisoner. Ironically, the Prussian effort had been financed by a Jewish banker called Gerson von Bleichröder (1822-1893), who was also involved in efforts to emancipate the Jews of Eastern Europe. Bleichröder, who was based in Berlin, was operating the German branch of the Rothschild bank. Just like at Waterloo, therefore, the family was actively financing both sides in a major European war. As far as France was concerned, the greatest humiliation of all came when Napoléon III was forced to abdicate and Chancellor von Bismarck was crowned German Emperor in the famous Hall of Mirrors at the Versaille Palace. The French themselves were made to feel as though they had inadvertently contributed to the rise of their victorious neighbours.

On September 4th, with the French armies defeated and the country now in turmoil, a new Government of National Defence took control in a bloodless coup and announced the beginnings of the Third Republic. Meanwhile, between September 19th and January 28th, 1871, Paris became embroiled in a disastrous siege which ended with the Prussians finally seizing control of the capital itself and then going on to unite Germany under William I. Consequently, on March 18th, radical anarcho-socialists – known as Communards – famously barricaded themselves into the very heart of the city and formed a revolutionary government that lasted until May 28th, when it was brutally crushed by the troops of the National Guard. Between 20,000 and 30,000 French citizens were executed, with thousands more sent abroad to labour in penal colonies. During the two-month stand-off, the Communards had also shot and bayoneted over fifty priests. Among the victims was Monsignor Georges Darboy (1813-1871), Archbishop of Paris. As D.W. Brogan explains, the Paris Commune

had been too busy with priests to bother with bankers. [12]

One of the more famous revolutionaries who had participated in the Paris Commune, was a Jewish revolutionary by the name of Leó Frankel (1844-1896). After leaving his native Hungary to become involved with Ferdinand Lassalle’s (1825-1864) General German Workers’ Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiter-Verein), Frankel travelled to Paris and became part of the short-lived Commune. After the National Guard set about murdering the protagonists Frankel managed to escape to Switzerland and then went to London to help organise the First International. Frankel had also been an assistant to Freidrich Engels and regularly corresponded with Karl Marx. Other Jews involved in the Paris Commune included the 1848 veteran and anti-clerical Freemason, Armand Lévy (1827-1891), and Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), who had earlier made his name as a Romantic poet and essayist in his native Poland.

Amidst the confusion of what was essentially a civil war, the French were eventually forced to sign the Treaty of Frankfurt and relinquish most of Alsace and some parts of Lorraine, each of were incorporated into what became known as the Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen). Napoleon I may have lost the Battle of Waterloo some fifty-six years earlier, but France had still managed to retain her influence on the European mainland. This time, things were rather different and the Germans had finally gained the upper hand.

In the French legislative elections of 1871, French monarchists managed to gain a majority in the National Assembly. The ‘Legitimists’, as they were known, supported the investiture of a descendent from the Royal dynasty of King Charles X. The latter, after all, had been the last monarch in the senior Bourbon line and therefore the natural choice was his grandson, Henri of Artois (18201883), Count of Chambord. His Orléanist opponents, however, wished to see the enthonement of a descendant from the line of King Louis Philippe I, in this case Prince Philippe (1838-1894), Count of Paris. Little had changed, therefore, since the bitter Legitimist-Orléanist intrigues of 1830. With their majority in the National Assembly complete, it was the Legitimists who got their way in the end and the throne was duly offered to Henri of Artois. When the new heir proposed that the tricolour flag be discarded in order to rid France of its revolutionary past, however, monarchists abandoned their proposal for a new Legitimist king and decided to wait until the childless Henri was dead and then offer their support to the Orléanist candidate, Prince Philippe. By that time, support for monarchy was on the wane and the proposal was dropped completely.

Between the months of February and July 1875, the National Assembly of the Third Republic passed a series of Constitutional Laws that effectively ignored the principles of the existing Constitution itself. The first dealt with the organisation of the French Senate, the second with the composition of the Government and the third with the relationship between the various departments of Government themselves. Parliament was now broken into two chambers and was comprised of an elected Chamber of Deputies and an indirectly-elected Senate. A President of the Council, or Prime Minister, was also responsible for controlling a new ministry that was answerable both to the President of the Republic and the legislature.

The country’s faltering attempts to get to grips with the new system allowed the monarchists to make a bid for ultimate power. On May 16th, 1877, with most people supporting proposals for the French state to be known as a ‘Republic’, President Patrice de MacMahon (1808-1893) – a staunch Royalist – sacked the Republican Prime Minister, Jules Simon (1814-1896), and replaced him with his monarchist counterpart, Jacques-Victor-Albert (1821-1901), 4th Duc de Broglie. Parliament was then dissolved and MacMahon set an election date for that October. It was a very brazen move, but once he had been accused of trying to stage a constitutional coup, MacMahon’s attempts to prevent a Republican triumph failed and the Legitimists found themselves completely marginalised.

Between 1886 and 1887, a French General and politician by the name of Georges Boulanger (1837-1891) won a series of French elections after adopting a hardline nationalist approach in an attempt to encourage his fellow countrymen to overcome the lingering sense of ignominy caused by the failure of the Franco-Prussian War and take renewed action against their victorious neighbours. Boulangisme, as his conservative movement became known, went on to advance three key principles: Revanche (revenge against Germany), Révision (revision of the Constitution) and Restoration (a full return to monarchy). Among his wide range of supporters were people drawn from the ranks of the working class, including an army of troublemakers bent on causing as many problems as possible. French society had never been so divided. Despite his pretensions, Boulanger was unable to cope with the pressures of politics and slipped into depression and disillusionment. He eventually fled to Brussels, where – on September 30th, 1891 – he took his own life beside the grave of his newly-deceased mistress, Marguerite de Bonnemains (1855-1891).

Despite the fact that the Boulangist campaign itself was heavily funded by wealthy Jewish barons like Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905) and Maurice de Hirsch (1831-1896), the rising tide of French patriotism it had unleashed actually led to an explosion of anti-Jewish feeling. Indeed, whilst the movement’s ultimate electoral defeat in 1889 brought an end to Royalist efforts to operate within the sphere of Gallic politics, it had inadvertently given birth to the demagogues and footsoldiers of the French Far Right.

One of the most important factors in the growth of the French Right was the Republic’s all-out war against Catholic values. When, in 1850, Louis-Napoléon had dealy a blow to the secularists by asking his Minister of Public Instruction, Frédéric Alfred Pierre (1811-1886), comte de Falloux, to end state monopoly on the control of French schools and allow Catholics to found their own centres of learning, he successfully forced through the controversial Loi Falloux laws that were passed on March 15th by 399 votes to 237. When the Third Republic arrived, increasing criticism of the enormous power the Catholic Church held over French education in general led to the laws being reversed. On February 27th, 1880, a Cabinet in which six out of ten members were Protestants led to a series of laws that saw the country adopt an educational system that was both free and secular (laic), whilst private Catholic schools were banned. Outraged, Catholics responded to these changes by seeing to it that teachers in their own schools were drawn from the ranks of the laity. Instead of being taught by priests and nuns, therefore, Christian children were administered to by ordinary citizens who just happened to have strong Catholic sympathies. Nonetheless, their pride had been damaged and Catholics in general, strongly conservative by nature, were convinced that secularism itself was part of an anti-Christian conspiracy being waged by a shadowy alliance of Freemasons and Jews. Needless to say, there was a great deal of truth in this claim and whilst papal encyclicals unequivocably condemned Masonry and Socialism alike, even devising alternative forms of social and economic justice, other Catholic publications began to feature crude representations of the stereotypical Jew, each complete with the obligatory large nose and a strong appetite for all things Mammon.

In 1882, when the Union Générale bank collapsed, its Catholic clients blamed rival Jewish financiers. Those who sought to expose the Jewish influence in political and economic affairs did not simply confine their attentions to capitalism, however, and in the wake of Russia’s anti-Jewish pograms of 1881 and 1884 those Jewish refugees looking for sanctuary in France were accused of being part of a potentially subversive Communist International. The Jew, therefore, was said to adopt two distinct forms: that of the greedy banker and his left-wing, revolutionary counterpart. One man who did administer to the new arrivals, on the other hand, welcoming them into the Jewish community and organising a successful relief operation, was Chief Rabbi Zadoc Kahn (1839-1905). He was later rewarded with the Legion of Honour.

The main opposition to the Jewish presence came from inflammatory figures such as Édouard Adolphe Drumont (1844-1917), a leading French journalist and polemicist. Piers Paul Read describes him as

a widower, shy and self-effacing, a closed personality, set in his ways, very old-fashioned, rather eccentric, excessively introspective, contemplative, scholarly – a kind of secular monk. [13]

As editor of La Libre Parole newspaper, Drumont – who regularly challenged his political opponents to a duel and ended up in more than a few bloody battles – was able to whip the French public into a frenzy by claiming that the Jewish hand was behind virtually everything. It certainly remains a fact that Jews were unquestionably at the root of many of the problems that had affected France over the previous century, just as they still control and manipulate world affairs even today, but trying to convince people that ordinary, innocent Jews were committed to the downfall of France was rather different to exposing the elite of bankers that was actually responsible for the country’s long-running woes.

In 1886, Drumont published his famous tract, Jewish France (La France juive) and demanded that Jews themselves be excluded from French society. It was a sensation, particularly among Catholics, with Drumont describing the Jewish conspiracy as

a sort of gentle occupation, an insinuating way of evicting the indigenous population from their houses, from their jobs, a smooth way of depriving them first of their goods, then of their traditions, their morals and finally their religion. [14]

In 1889, meanwhile, Drumont founded the Antisemitic League of France (Ligue antisémitique de France) and was later able to use the example of the Panama Scandal of 1892-3, during which corrupt French ministers had accepted bribes from wealthy Jewish businessmen, as a pretext for adding more fuel to the fire. The secret Jewish intrigue that had risen to the fore during the Panama Scandal was also denounced by leading French Anarchists and prominent Socialists like Paul Lafargue (1842-1911), the son-in-law of Karl Marx.

 To conclude, whilst hundreds of ordinary Jews had fought in the 1870-1 Franco-Prussian War, hoping to earn themselves a place in the annals of French history, the inexcusable machinations of Jewish financiers behind the scenes and Republicanism’s long association with a secret Jewish cabal was enough to vilify them in the eyes of the French people and many blamed innocent Jews for what had been a thoroughly humiliating defeat. Unfortunately, this sweeping generalisation would eventually lead to one of the country’s most outrageous travesties of justice: the Dreyfus Affair.


1. Poncins, Vicomte Leon de; The Secret Powers Behind Revolutions: Freemasonry and Judaism (Christian Book Club of America, 1967), p.31.

2. Lémann, Abbé Joseph; L’Entee des Israelites dans la Societe Francaise (Librairie Victor Legoffre, 1886), p.356.

3. Malino, Frances; A Jew in the French Revolution: The Life of Zalkind Hourwitz (Blackwell Publishing, 1996), p.14.

4. Avineri, Shlomo; Herzl: Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State (Phoenix, 2014), p.35.

5. Avineri, Shlomo; Herzl: Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State (Phoenix, 2014), p.32.

6. O’Meara, Barry Edward; Napoleon in Exile, Volume 1 (W. Simpkin & R. Marshall, 1822), p.183.

7. Rutherford, Andrew; Byron: A Critical Study (Stanford University Press, 1961), p.193.

8. Read, Piers Paul; The Dreyfus Affair: The Story of the Most Infamous Miscarriage of Justice in French History (Bloomsbury, 2012), p.11.

9. Kalman, Julie; “Félicité de Lamennais and the Jews: Evolutions in Ambivalence” in Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, Volume 35 (2007). Retrieved January 29th, 2017.

10. Lazare, Bernard; Quoted in Vicomte Léon de Poncins, The Secret Powers Behind Revolutions: Freemasonry and Judaism (Christian Book Club of America, 1967), p.121.

11. Toussenel, Alphonse; Quoted in Wistrich, Robert S., From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (University of Nebraska Press, 2012), p.195.

12. Brogan, D.W.; The Development of Modern France, 1870-1939 (Hamish Hamilton, 1940), p.67.

13. Read, Piers Paul; The Dreyfus Affair: The Story of the Most Infamous Miscarriage of Justice in French History (Bloomsbury, 2012), p.33.

14. Drumont, Édouard; La France juive: essai d’histoire contemporaine, Volume I (C. Marpon & E. Flammarion, 1886), p.8.

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