Louis Loew (1828 - 1917)

Louis Loew


Judges & lawyers

President of the Criminal Chamber during the investigations of the first quashing of the verdict that had convicted Dreyfus, Louis Loew was born in Strasbourg 30 April 1828.

A brewer's son, Loew was a brilliant student; he began his career as a lawyer at twenty, and, in 1851, was awarded a doctorate in law with honors. Starting in 1852, he was deputy public prosecutor at Altkirch; after working in the public prosecutor's office in Colmar and Strasbourg, where his profound erudition in both civil and criminal law was praised, he became a public prosecutor in Mulhouse-Altkirch in 1859, and was appointed presiding judge in 1864.

Opting for French nationality after the annexation of Alsace, he was presiding judge at Le Havre in 1872, before becoming a judge in Paris in 1875, councilor to the Court of Appeal in 1880 and attorney general in 1883.

As president of the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation as of 11 May 1886, he directed the investigations during the first quashing of the Dreyfus trial, and felt "condemned to public hatred and the target of its fury, [my name, my religion and my family being] scrutinized, misrepresented and reviled with the most treacherous acrimony." In January 1899, a deputy included him, along with his rapporteur Bard and public prosecutor Manau, in a "trio of rogues."

The Criminal Chamber was accused of being "in the pay of Germany and the Jewish Syndicate," and a law of convenience removed the case from its jurisdiction on 1 March 1899. Two days later, however, the Chamber managed to protect Picquart from military justice, confirming the superiority of civilian justice for related cases. The Chamber's president would later state: "We have been accused of being biased towards Dreyfus. In wanting to prove our impartiality, we have been biased against him."

After fifty-one years of civil service, Louis Loew presided over his final hearing on 9 May 1903, recalling the martyr who caused him to be subject to the public's recklessness. At the rehabilitation of 1906, he had "a feeling of patriotic pride" in knowing that it was not a general staff officer who had betrayed the army, "nor a child of Alsace who had betrayed France."

He became president emeritus in April 1903, and was named Grand Officer in the Legion of Honor on May 22 of the following year. In 1910, he published La Loi de dessaisissement par un dessaisi. Prior to his death in Basel on 23 April 1917, he had chosen the text for his funeral service: "blessed are those who suffer for justice." During the ceremony, pastor Tissot read a verse from Daniel 12.3: "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." President Loew was buried according to his wishes, in the Protestant cemetery in Mulhouse, "with the old French flag of the court of Mulhouse as a pillow."