Ferdinand Forzinetti (1839 - 1909)

Ferdinand Forzinetti



Ferdinand Forzinetti was the commandant of the Cherche-Midi military prison, and one of the first to be convinced of Dreyfus's innocence. He was born in Marseille on 6 February 1839.

The son of a mason, Forzinetti enlisted in the army in 1857. He became sergeant major in 1860, second lieutenant in 1865, and was made lieutenant in March 1869 after campaigns in Italy and Mexico with the 2nd Foreign Regiment. He was promoted to captain in 1871, and was appointed head of military prisons in March 1876 in Birkadem and then, as of July 1885, in Bab el-Oued. His superiors found that he "judged situations well [and] served with enthusiasm" and appreciated his flexible and easy-going character.

As commandant of military prisons in Paris as of 15 October 1890, Forzinetti deepened his knowledge of prisoner psychology. In the fall of 1894, he observed Captain Dreyfus "shut up in his cell [whose door] is not to be opened except in [his] presence" and became alarmed at his despair.

By a decree dated 20 February 1895 Forzinetti was granted his retirement, while his most famous prisoner sailed to Guyana. Later, Alfred Dreyfus paid homage to his jailer who, along with Lucie, had dissuaded him from taking his own life and "who knew how to combine the strict duty of a soldier with the highest feelings of humanity."

Ferdinand Forzinetti was kept in his post after his retirement and, on 29 January 1897, he received an expression of satisfaction from the Ministry of War for having taken part in a panel that reviewed the regulations concerning the serving of military justice. But when his relationship with the Dreyfusards became known, he was relieved of his responsibilities on 16 November 1897. He testified in Rennes in favor of Dreyfus, and was alarmed at his physical appearance after the pardon, while admiring the fact that Dreyfus "never had a word of hatred for his torturers."

It was Prince Albert I of Monaco who offered employment to this widowed father of four; in 1899, he became commissioner in charge of administrative supervision of the PLM railroad and government commissioner for joint-stock companies. From Monte-Carlo, where he died in 1909, Forzinetti was overjoyed at news of the 1906 rehabilitation, and wrote "Revenge is sweet and I hail it."