Émile Zola was a French novelist, playwright and journalist, known for his impassioned defense of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army who was unjustly accused of treason in a sensational trial dripping with antisemitism. Zola’s open letter, J’Accuse, published in 1898 on the front page of the newspaper L’Aurore, It was a defense of truth, for which he was (also unjustly) convicted of libel.

An earlier statue of Zola was destroyed by the Vichy regime during World War II. Most of the metal sculptures in France — more than 17,000 of them — were melted down to make German armaments.

As early as 1952 discussions started about erecting a new Zola memorial. The city council made a proposal to erect a new statue for the 50th anniversary of his death — 1952 — but it got hung up in disagreements between the administration and the family. The idea was revived for the 60th anniversary and again shot down. This statue was erected in 1985, on the Avenue Emile-Zola. The sculptor was Costa Spourdos.

The back of the monument contains this quotation:

The truth is on the move
and nothing can stop it
he who suffers for truth and justice
becomes noble and sacred…
…there is no justice except in the truth
there is no happiness except in justice“

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