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Ceremonies of BraveryOscar Wilde, Carlos Blacker, and the Dreyfus Affair$

J. Robert Maguire

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199660827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199660827.001.0001

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(p.169) Appendix: Carlos Blacker’s ‘Private and Confidential’ Memorandum on the Dreyfus Affair

(p.169) Appendix: Carlos Blacker’s ‘Private and Confidential’ Memorandum on the Dreyfus Affair

Ceremonies of Bravery
Oxford University Press

Carlos Blacker’s diary indicates that he ‘commenced writing about Dreyfus affair’ in Freiburg on 27 May 1899, apparently at the urging of Salomon Reinach, and completed his account two days later. The previous August, Reinach had introduced a passionate Dreyfusard to Blacker—‘a French scholar of great repute…M. Brunot, professor of mediaeval French at the Sorbonne’, recommending him warmly as ‘the most trustworthy of men and the most discreet of advisers’. Blacker evidently provided Brunot a copy of his memorandum and on 22 July 1899 noted receipt of ‘letter from M. Brunot asking me for more on the account of Dreyfus affair’, in response to which, a week later, Blacker ‘sent letter to M. Brunot about my experiences in Dreyfus affair’. When, the following month, Brunot asked Blacker to allow him to testify as a witness at Dreyfus’s second court-martial at Rennes about the contents of the memorandum, Blacker declined. The memorandum exists in two states, exhibiting slight variations, one written prior to the release from prison of Colonel Picquart on 9 June 1899 and the other following his release a short time later. What follows is the later version, with some omitted words from the earlier draft shown in square brackets. The reference to ‘the Club here’ in the opening paragraph is to Freiburg, where Schwartzkoppen had spent the three years preceding his assignment to the German Embassy in Paris in 1891.

(Private & Confidential)

On the 25th of October 1897 [a gentleman] an officer came into the Club here saying that he had just seen the Commanding General & had heard him make a very interesting statement.

The General had told him that he had that morning received a letter from Schwartzkoppen in Paris, saying that he knew Dreyfus to be innocent, and that a terrible mistake had been made, that he was weighed down by the load of this secret, & that he intended to proclaim that Dreyfus was innocent, as soon as he was relieved of his post as Military Attaché in Paris.

(p.170) Schwartzkoppen had been quartered here for three years before going to Paris, & thus had quite naturally written to his former General as a friend.

A few days after this I saw in the papers that Schwartzkoppen had been withdrawn from Paris.

On the 7th February 1898 I went [with my family] on a long visit to Paris. This was the first day of the Zola trial & Paris was in a ferment.

I immediately went to see my old & [very] intimate friend Panizzardi knowing that I would learn the whole truth from him, for it was evident that three beings alone knew the whole & entire truth, namely God, & the two Military Attachés.

I found Panizzardi very excited & distressed. He seemed aged & worn, & he unbosomed himself to me without [a moment’s] hesitation, seeming to find [relief] comfort in so doing. He told me at once that Esterhazy was the guilty man, & that Dreyfus was perfectly innocent.

I then asked him why the error was not immediately addressed, & why Esterhazy was so protected.

He then explained that Esterhazy by his marriage had been brought into contact with the exalted members of the army. He had availed himself of this to acquire secret & important information in an informal manner, as for instance after dinner or out shooting, or on other similar occasions when the intimate nature of the opportunity served.

In this way & assisted by his unrivalled astuteness he had been able to make this information of use to himself without his informants knowing to what use he was putting it, namely communicating it to Schwartzkoppen against remuneration.

Consequently Esterhazy if prosecuted, would probably implicate Generals & superior officers who had at the worst been indiscreet but whom Esterhazy would probably denounce as worse. In short, what had been told to him in a spirit of friendship, would be given the complexion of treachery. Therefore it was that Esterhazy was protected & covered by those whom it concerned.

Neither Schwartzkoppen or Panizzardi, had ever seen or had anything to do with Dreyfus either directly, or indirectly or in any way whatever.

Esterhazy’s treachery commenced in 1893 when he presented himself one day at Schwartzkoppen’s rooms & gave him to understand that they could be mutually useful to each other. Schwartzkoppen however was circumspect & on his guard because of the extraordinarily secret information which he offered to reveal.

He thought he might be dealing with a counter-spy. He however accepted & paid for the information first offered. It was verified subsequently as correct, & from that time forward until November 1896 Esterhazy brought Schwartzkoppen all & every secret information he could procure. Schwartzkoppen in (p.171) turn paid him a regular monthly allowance, & when a document of great & particular value was offered he paid something in excess of this allowance.

In this way Schwartzkoppen secured some 140 [documents] pieces of value, & in some cases of such value that some 30 of them were considered as of supreme interest & importance. Hence he was on several occasions congratulated by his war office in Berlin for the singular services which his zeal & vigilance rendered to his country.

Two characteristics invariably attended Esterhazy’s visits to Schwartzkoppen’s rooms in the Rue de Lille. The first that he always accompanied the delivery of information by stating the ‘provenance’ saying ‘this piece I got from General X, or this other from Colonel Y’ & so on.

The second characteristic was that he never failed to try to convince Schwartzkoppen that he was betraying the secrets of his country, not for the sake of gold, but because he had a deeply rooted hatred for everything that had to do with the French army & particularly its chiefs.

‘Imbécile et canaille’ fools & scoundrels were the epithets which he invariably made use of [when speaking of the] to qualify Generals & superior officers [to malign & traduce them], & he always had some anecdote ready to show that they were either fools, or scoundrels, or both.

He would say that his regret, his life-long regret was that he was not in the service of the German Army. That, he would say was an army indeed worth serving in, but since it was impossible for him to gratify this wish & ambition he nevertheless comforted himself by [working for] serving it as he did! The [remuneration] money he said was [‘pour rendre des services à ces imbéciles et canailles’] to render services to those idiots & scoundrels, in order to coax their confidences, as money he said could do anything in the French army.

But Schwartzkoppen never shook hands with him!

I asked Panizzardi whether it could be considered right to make use of such services. He answered saying that it was wrong to approach a man & bribe him to obtain secret information, but that if a French officer offered his services, it was not only right but even his duty to accept them. For instance if a French officer offered to sell a copy of the treaty of alliance between France & Russia to an officer of the Triple Alliance, it was obviously his duty in his country’s interest, to avail himself of the opportunity to secure such information.

Be this as it may Esterhazy continued to regularly betray the secrets of his country to [Schwartzkoppen] Germany from 1893 to 1896.

In September 1894 he wrote the now famous ‘bordereau’, & together with the documents enumerated therein left them with the porter of the German Embassy.

This man an Alsacian was in the pay of the French [secret intelligence department] War Office.

(p.172) He abstracted the bordereau, tore it up, & took it to the French intelligence department of the War Office. The other documents enumerated in the bordereau were duly delivered to Schwartzkoppen & are now in his possession in Berlin together with the other [the 140 odd] documents he obtained from Esterhazy.

The porter at the Embassy tore up the bordereau for the following reasons. A document taken from the German Embassy was a document taken from German territory, & as such might lead to diplomatic complications. This indeed as it happens very nearly did occur.

By however tearing it up, it was made to appear as if Schwartzkoppen having read the letter had torn it up & thrown it into the waste paper basket, whence it might have fallen into the hands of some one outside the Embassy & thus out of the precincts of German territory.

The bordereau [in fragments as you know] having found its way to the War Office, was as you know attributed to Dreyfus. How & why this terrible mistake was made you will have read in the papers.1

Panizzardi told me that he had never himself had any relations with Esterhazy, but Schwartzkoppen both as friend & member of the triple alliance always communicated the important secrets he obtained from Esterhazy, without however mentioning ‘his man’s’ name. [Hence Schwartzkoppen’s excited visits to Panizzardi when the fear arose that ‘his man’ was caught.]

When however in October 1894 it commenced to be known that a French officer had been arrested for treachery to his country, Schwartzkoppen in great trepidation went to see Panizzardi & told him that he feared ‘his man’ was caught.

Two days afterwards it transpired that the officer in question was a Jew & he again went to see Panizzardi in order to tell him that ‘his man’ was not caught & that there evidently had been some other traitor at work, but that he knew nothing about him.

And so poor Dreyfus was tried, condemned & transported for life, as the author of the bordereau, without Schwartzkoppen or the general public knowing on what particular grounds he had been found guilty.

And so after this Esterhazy continued to act for Schwartzkoppen, & indeed some of his most valuable communications were made long after Dreyfus was on the Ile du Diable.

And so it continued until suddenly & mysteriously a photograph of the ‘bordereau’ appeared in the ‘Matin’ in November 1896.2

Then & only then Schwartzkoppen realized that Dreyfus had been wrongly condemned, & then it was that Esterhazy was seen rushing about the streets in the rain like a demented spirit.

(p.173) Schwartzkoppen however could do nothing. Esterhazy ceased to communicate with him & retired on leave for reasons of ill health, & for a time travelled abroad, & disappeared.

Before this however in March 1896 Schwartzkoppen had himself addressed the famous ‘petit bleu’ to Esterhazy, disguising his handwriting, as was his custom when writing to him.3

He had written this in his rooms, intending to post it himself on his way to the Embassy where he had an appointment with his chief. This he forgot to do, & only remembered it when he found himself at the door of the Embassy already a little behind time.

To lose no time he took the ‘petit-bleu’ out of his pocket, handed it to the porter of the Embassy & told him to have it posted without delay. The porter as in the case of the bordereau again tore it up into small fragments, & it also found its way to the Intelligence department of the War office of which Picquart was now head.

As you know Picquart [has now been in prison since the 13th July 1898] was subsequently eleven months in prison charged with having forged this very ‘petit-bleu,’ for it was this document which first revealed the truth & which has played such an important part in the whole affair. All this however must be familiar to you.

Panizzardi then also told me that on Sunday 24th October 1897 Schwartzkoppen early in the morning broke into his (Panizzardi’s) rooms to tell him that this time ‘his man’ was found out.

There was no doubt about it this time, & so to his great regret he would be compelled to leave Paris, with as little delay as possible. This it was necessary to do in order to avoid diplomatic complications & in conformity with regular & accepted usage, under similar circumstances.

Then it was that for the first time Schwartzkoppen mentioned ‘his man’s’ name saying that it was Esterhazy, & [then described him as the most marvellous, audacious, & wonderful ‘canaille’ that it was possible to imagine either in fiction or history, & capable of any & every villainy, including murder] that he was the most marvellous, audacious & brutal scoundrel that it was possible to imagine in fact or fiction, & capable of any & every villainy & holding murder lightly.

He then told Panizzardi that on the preceding day October 23 at about 3 in the afternoon Esterhazy had suddenly appeared in his rooms (Schwartzkoppen’s). He was livid, haggard & trembling with terror. He threw himself on a sofa, asked for brandy, & said that he had been found out. He [yelled] rolled out imprecations on God, humanity & himself & behaved like a [demon] creature from hell at bay.

Schwartzkoppen who had not seen him since the publication of the bordereau in the ‘Matin’ in November of the preceding year was dumb- (p.174) founded. He [asked him to explain himself & to be a bit more composed, & tell him why he had come back to Paris] asked what on Earth had brought him to Paris, why he came to him again, & to steady him gave him brandy.

As soon as Esterhazy had recovered some composure he told Schwartzkoppen that being in the country he had the day before received an anonymous letter warning him that he was going to be denounced as being the author of the bordereau, & urging him to come to Paris in order to be prepared to meet the charge. He said on that very morning some one had called on him making a mysterious appointment for 6 o’clock at the Parc Montsouris & giving him a little slip of paper on which the hour & place of meeting was written down, & showing it to Schwartzkoppen.

But, he added, ‘how do I know that this is not an ambush [“un guet-apens”], & while I am speaking to some person in that remote place in the dark, other men do not come from behind & seize me?’ ‘You must help me out of this difficulty, he said to Schwartzkoppen, you must go to the Dreyfus family & tell them that the bordereau was written by Dreyfus, that he was your informant & secret agent, & that it is futile trying to make any one else responsible for the “bordereau.”’

Schwartzkoppen [could but smile at this suggestion] at this only shook his head, whereupon Esterhazy suddenly pulling out a revolver covered Schwartzkoppen saying ‘unless you give me your word that you will do as I tell you, I will blow your brains out & mine afterwards.’

Schwartzkoppen with complete composure said ‘You tell me that you have an appointment, & you [think it may be a guet-apens] fear it may be an ambush. Since however you are so well armed, it will be more opportune for you to commence firing when you are quite convinced that you are lost. It may however, he added, be quite the contrary & you may find [yourself protected] some friend or protector. Go there, & come back here afterwards to tell me the result.’

This quite disarmed Esterhazy & he [then after asking for drink, became more composed] said he would follow this advice. Then as if nothing unusual had happened he commenced to speak with his [accustomed vivacity & brilliancy as if nothing had happened] usual vivacity & fervour on the old theme of the stupidity & villainy of French officers, saying that anything might be expected from them.

[He left Schwartzkoppen promising to return after the interview in the Parc Montsouris,—in order to tell him the particulars.] He left at 4,—at 8 he returned.

This time he was radiant & almost beside himself with joy. ‘I am protected,’ he said. [‘I have them now. I hold toute cette crapule entre les mains.’] ‘I hold them now. They are afraid of me, I have all the brutes in my hand. I can now sleep on both ears. They dare not touch me.’ He could hardly contain himself (p.175) with high spirits & added ‘I always told you they were a pack of cowards & scoundrels, now you will see to what lengths they will go to protect me.’

He then told him about the meeting; about the false beards, & spectacles, etc. [which you have read in the papers. But what has not appeared in the papers is that] He knew Paty du Clam from the first, though he did not recognize Gribelin [standing near him, or Henry in the cab in the dark] & Henry who held themselves at a distance & Henry remaining in the cab in the dark.4

He said that Paty du Clam had told him that he had nothing to fear, for even if Scheurer-Kestner5 or Picquart or Mathieu Dreyfus denounced him, the Etat-Major would protect him through thick and through thin, [so that he only had to be quiet] & that he had to avoid doing anything rash, & must do just as he was told for he would then be perfectly safe. He was assured that protection came from the highest quarters & that all would be well.

To this Schwartzkoppen said ‘Well I congratulate you for you must consider yourself very lucky. As it is though, I do not think there is any necessity for you to come here again. Adieu Monsieur. Portez vous bien!’

This then was what Schwartzkoppen told Panizzardi on that early morning of October 24th 1897 & then it was that for the first time Panizzardi knew that Schwartzkoppen had been employing a well known & notorious [spy] traitor, from whom any military attaché could obtain secret military information, if he chose to have it, & pay for it.

As a [spy] traitor he was as well known as intermediaries of another kind, or as a doctor for special diseases. Esterhazy & treachery were synonymous terms with the military attachés, but of course no one of them denounced him any more than they would have acknowledged having visited certain medical specialists.

In due course therefore, in November, Schwartzkoppen’s request was granted & he was relieved of his functions in Paris after being decorated with the Legion of Honour by Félix Faure who at that time knew the whole & entire truth perfectly well.

On the night that he left Paris, he & Panizzardi dined together at a Restaurant. Between them lay a large sized Gladstone bag, which he afterwards kept on his knee in the cab, & which he treated as his pillow during the journey.

The bag contained the 140 odd pieces of treachery in Esterhazy’s handwriting.

The above is an outline of facts learned [from Panizzardi] at first hand, on incontrovertible authority, the importance of which is manifest.

Panizzardi & I were constantly together & the subject of conversation was principally this terrible miscarriage of justice & discussions as to how this unhappy victim could be assisted.

(p.176) This was exceedingly difficult since Panizzardi told me that the [Cabinet, Félix Faure] President & all the Ministers & most important political personages had been officially informed of the whole & the entire truth. Both the German & Italian Ambassadors had fully informed the Government under instructions from their respective Governments & Sovereigns [but they did not choose to act]. The truth therefore was & is known.

Public official declarations were also made & published, but they also were disregarded.

[It therefore seemed difficult to know how to act in order to be of some service when early in March 1898 the King of Italy sent for Panizzardi.] On the 10th of March 1898 the King of Italy sent for Panizzardi in order to learn the truth, with details, of the Dreyfus affair at first hand.

Panizzardi’s position in Paris at this time was growing very difficult & he was meeting with scant courtesy from the Generals & officers he met. He was therefore going to avail himself of that opportunity to ask the King to relieve him of his post in Paris, where he had then been serving for 7 years.

This being the case we decided that he would [do what he could with the King of Italy to get the King to write to the German Emperor] also avail himself of this opportunity to ask the King of Italy to write to the German Emperor requesting him as a personal favour to allow some of Esterhazy’s documents to be handed to Panizzardi with a view to their being published in a neutral country, [say England] Switzerland, Belgium or England.

With this intention he left for Rome, subsequently went to Berlin, & was back in Paris ten days later [the 15th] the 20th March.

He told me that the King of Italy had been much [interested &] pained to learn the facts, but he could not spare Panizzardi in Paris & told him to remain.

In Berlin he was told that the Emperor had been much irritated at the way in which his official declarations had been received by the French Government & people. He was told that not all the publications in the world would be of the slightest avail under the condition of things in France, & that under any circumstances the Emperor having made a statement, he did not like to bring proofs to prove that what he said was true when his word sufficed.

There was therefore nothing to be done. [Panizzardi authorized me to publish what he had told me, but this would have injured him,—as he subsequently suffered.] Personally I could not publish what Panizzardi had told me for this would have entailed Panizzardi’s immediately having to leave Paris.

As for me, living in Paris with my family & my mother, there was no saying what the trouble to them might have been. The trouble & the worry duly came afterwards through no fault of my own & even this was bad enough, as I will in due course relate hereafter, to show what a condition of things prevailed in France at that time.

(p.177) Panizzardi constantly dined with us, & he was always shadowed & watched. We could see the men in the street watching the house & waiting for him to leave, when they would jump on their bicycles & follow him as soon as he took a cab.

On April 4th appeared a letter signed ‘un diplomate’ in the Siècle. This substantially contained what I have written above, regarding the relations formerly existing between Schwartzkoppen & Esterhazy, & these then became generally known for the first time.

The article created a great sensation, but unfortunately for reasons which will appear in another part I was considered the author of it, & it was attributed to me [& the ‘Presse Immonde’ commenced a campaign against me & I was shadowed, tracked & followed, day & night & everywhere].

Then commenced my troubles. I was attacked by the low & infamous press, & for days my family and I were insulted & dragged through the most filthy dirt. Anonymous & foul letters were addressed to me threatening me with assaults & death to myself & my family. I was followed & tracked without a moment’s intermission for months & it was only on the frontier when I left France that I finally saw two men leaving the train who had been watching me from the next carriage.

Four days after the publication of the ‘Lettre d’un Diplomate’ appeared an article signed by Casella in which he described interviews with Schwartzkoppen & Panizzardi, & what they had said to him regarding the innocence of Dreyfus.

Then Panizzardi’s fate was sealed as far as remaining in Paris was concerned. [The ‘Presse Immonde’ covered him with filth, he was pestered with anonymous letters threatening death, & finally French officers publicly declared that if they met Panizzardi in a public place they would attack him.] The low press attacked him, anonymous letters poured in threatening to attack him & spit in his face in public & even his Ambassador was molested. From the 8th to the 15th of April he showed a bold front. He dined with us every night during this last week of his stay in Paris [and even wished to entrust me with all his secret papers & documents, there was therefore nothing connected with the Dreyfus affair which he kept from me, the above being only the outline & skeleton of what he told me]. He wished to entrust me with all his documents & papers, as he was afraid they might in some way be got hold of, but I could not accept the responsibility.

[Finally after a week’s anxiety, he left Paris.] At length on the 15th April his position having become quite untenable he left Paris for Berne on the plea of a mission there. Eventually without being officially recalled from Paris he was given a regiment of Bersaglieri in Rome, where he now is [where from his letters he appears to be perfectly happy & above all perfectly convinced that the truth will be made manifest in France & that Dreyfus & Picquart will have (p.178) justice meted out to them, as they deserve. One as an innocent victim, the other as the type of a noble man, with a ‘soul of crystal’].

Since then we have been in constant correspondence, the principal subject being this unhappy affair & in every instance his predictions & anticipations & warnings have come true. This is due to his seven years’ experience of the French people & an intimate acquaintance with their characteristics, merits & demerits.

[The above are facts, with which alone I intended to deal. General observations as to how & why such a perverse condition of things could have existed in France is matter for the historian.

I have also avoided mentioning names other than those of the principal actors. But if there is an immanent justice which has its time & its hour, it should go hard with some who are little better than that ‘superb scoundrel’ Esterhazy.]


(1.) Blacker’s account of how the bordereau reached the War Office—i.e. through the Alsatian agent (Martin Brücker)—conflicts with the ‘official’ version, according to which it came by ‘the ordinary route’: Mme Bastian, a charwoman employed at the German embassy routinely delivered the contents of Schwartzkoppen’s waste-paper basket to Major Henry at the War Office. Schwartzkoppen maintained to the end that never having received the bordereau it could not have ended up in his waste-paper basket. Dreyfus himself came to accept the version recounted by Blacker. Jean-Denis Bredin, The Affair (New York: George Braziller Inc., 1986), 60.

(2.) Pierre Teyssonières, one of three experts appointed to examine the handwriting of the bordereau, failed to return the photograph of the document as called for on completion of his assignment and, instead, sold it to the newspaper Le Matin. Guy Chapman, The Dreyfus Case (New York: Reynal & Company, 1955), 136.


(3.) Disagreement remains as to the disguised handwriting of Schwartzkoppen’s petit bleu (carte-telegram) to Esterhazy which has been attributed to his mistress to whom he is thought to have dictated the message. Colonel Picquart was accused of having forged the document for which he was arrested and held in prison for eleven months.

(4.) At the rendezvous in the Parc Montsouris, Esterhazy, in panic as the case closed round him, was assured by Colonel du Paty de Clam that he would be protected. Like du Paty, Félix Gribelin, an archivist at the War Office, was in civilian clothes and disguised at the meeting: du Paty with a false beard and Gribelin wearing blue spectacles. Major Henry of the intelligence service remained out of sight in the cab that had brought them. Chapman, The Dreyfus Case, 149–50.

(5.) Senator Auguste Scheurer-Kestner, an Alsatian, and an influential Dreyfusard.