Home > Events > Learn > Amram Scholar Series Presents: Maurice Samuels
A high-spirited French duchess who fought to claim the Bourbon throne for her young son in 1832 – aided and then betrayed by the son of France’s chief rabbi – had a lasting impact on the nature of French anti-Semitism, as explained by our Amram Scholar for Sunday, February 28, Maurice Samuels. A professor of French at Yale who heads its Program for the Study of Antisemitism as well as Judaic studies, he will join us on Zoom at 5 pm to recount the suspenseful story, brimming with intrigue and lush detail, that is the subject of his new book, The Betrayal of the Duchess: The Scandal That Unmade the Bourbon Monarchy and Made France Modern.
From a drafty Scottish castle, with the French royal family driven into exile by revolution, the duchesse de Berry — the mother of the eleven-year-old heir to the throne — launched a civil war to restore the Bourbon dynasty. On the run for months, she commanded a guerilla army and evaded capture by disguising herself as a man. But soon she was betrayed by her trusted advisor, Simon Deutz, the son of France’s chief rabbi. His treachery became a cause célèbre for Bourbon loyalists and ignited a firestorm of hate against France’s Jews. By blaming an entire people for the actions of a single man, the duchess’s supporters set the terms for more than a century of anti-Semitism that followed.
Attacked as a new Judas Iscariot, the self-serving Deutz, who had converted to Catholicism, was both demonized with racial stereotypes and denounced by political conservatives as a symbol of the liberal cosmopolitanism that threatened France’s Christian faith, ethnic purity, and national traditions. The first European country to grant Jews citizenship, France would see anti-Semitism explode again in the late 19th century with the infamous Dreyfus affair, as well as in the Holocaust, when it helped deport 77,000 Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps. Today, with the third-largest Jewish population in the world, France continues to struggle with anti-Semitism, including violent terrorist attacks by radicalized Muslims which, polls show, have prompted many Jews to consider emigration.
Click here to purchase this book through WHC’s Mitzvah Mall
Presented in partnership with the Jewish Book Council
Sunday, February 28
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Washington, DC 20016
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